The J. Paul Getty Museum

Scylla and Sirens

Object Details


Scylla and Sirens






Ghent, Belgium (Place Created)


about 1475


Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. Ludwig XIII 5, v1 (83.MP.148.1), fol. 68v


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

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Object Description

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.

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