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Mermaid

Date: 1754
Dimensions:
Overall: 550 x 745 mm
Display Dimensions: 409 x 490 mm
Medium: Printing ink, watercolour paint on handmade, watermarked, laid cream coloured paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00003931

User Terms

    Description
    This hand coloured engraving of a mermaid after a sketch by Samuel Fallours was published in Amsterdam in 1754 as part of Louis Renard's book, 'Poissons, Ecrevisses et Crabes' (Fish, Crayfish and Crabs). In the book the mermaid is described as a 59-inch long 'monster resembling a siren' with eel-like proportions.
    SignificanceThis 18th century depiction of a mermaid is repesentative of the role of mythical creatures in both cultural and natural histories of this period.
    HistorySamuel Fallours was British-born but served as a soldier and official painter with the Dutch East India Company. He was stationed at the island of Ambon, where he made watercolours of local wildlife, including tropical fish. As few Europeans had ever seen the incredible creatures Fallours depicted, his sketches were popular among Holland's wealthy patrons.

    The image of the mermaid, first published in the 1719 edition of 'Poissons, Ecrevisses et Crabes de Diverses Couleurs et Figures Extraordinaires' (Fish, Crayfishes and Crabs of Diverse Colouration and Extraordinary Form), was claimed to have been taken from life. Fallours maintained that he had observed a siren in a tub of water for four days, until it died. Fallours, along with a number of his colleagues, documented this encounter in detail:

    ‘A monster resembling a Sirenne caught on the coast of the island of Borne or Boeren (Buru) in the province of Ambon. It was fifty-nine inches long, and of an eel-like proportion. It lived on shore in a tank of water for four days and seven hours. It uttered occasional cries similar to those of a mouse. It would not eat, although it was offered small fishes, molluscs, crabs, crayfishes, etc. After its death, a few feces similar to those of a cat were found in its tank'.

    Renard's book contained 460 brilliantly coloured engravings of sea life of the Molluccas as drawn by Fallours. First published in 1719 it was reissued in 1754 after his death.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Mermaid from the book `Poissons, Ecrevisses et Crabes'

    Web title: Mermaid

    Related People
    Publisher: Louis Renard

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