Siren

Siren

500s BC

Terracotta

Overall: 12.7 x 18.1 x 6.7 cm (5 x 7 1/8 x 2 5/8 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1928.193

Location

Description

In Greek mythology, a siren is a half-bird, half-woman creature who lured sailors to destruction by the sweetness of her song. The most famous sirens appear in the ancient Greek epic the Odyssey. The goddess of magic, Circe, warns the hero Odysseus to be wary of sirens “who beguile all mortals, any who comes their way,” and lure them to their deaths. This vessel in the shape of a siren likely held valuable perfumed oil. Its small mouth limited spillage, and a string attached to the loop on its back allowed it to hang or to hold a stopper. In the Middle Ages, sirens served as a moral warning—those who allow themselves to indulge in worldly pleasures are vulnerable to evil consequences.

See also
Collection: 
GR - Greek
Department: 
Greek and Roman Art
Type of artwork: 
Sculpture
Medium: 
Terracotta

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