Scylla and Sirens

Object Details

Title:

Scylla and Sirens

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

Flemish

Date:

about 1475

Medium:

Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment

Dimensions:

Leaf: 43.8 x 30.5 cm (17 1/4 x 12 in.)

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Standing on the beach, three sirens play bewitching music to lure sailors toward shore. Half woman, half bird, the sirens were usually portrayed as a music-making trio whose sweet, compelling song drove sailors to their deaths. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus made his crew plug their ears in order to safely pass by the enchanting sirens.

To the left of the sirens in this image, the loathsome monster Scylla roams the coast. According to Greek mythology, in a jealous fit over a sea-god, the sorceress Circe had turned the beautiful nymph Scylla into a terrible monster with twelve legs and six heads. Miserable and disconsolate, Scylla took up residence in a sea cave, destroying all who came near her. In this miniature, Scylla is shown, possibly in the middle of her transformation, with two heads and the body of a young woman.

Related Works
Exhibitions
Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Musicians and Instruments in Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts (January 25 to April 10, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), January 25 to April 10, 1994
Transforming Tradition: Ancient Motifs in Medieval Manuscripts (September 23 to November 30, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), September 23 to November 30, 2003
Medieval Beasts (May 1 to July 29, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), May 1 to July 29, 2007
Related Media
  • /
    Audio: Scylla and Sirens (Exhibit: MEDIEVAL BEASTS)