When The Nereid Became Mermaid: Arnold Böcklin's Paradigm Shift

Han Tran
2018 Shima  
Arnold Böcklin's untraditional depiction of the Nereid as mermaid merges two strands that classical representations of the sea creature endeavoured to keep separate and that Roman iconography yielded to: the Nereid as idealised, anthropomorphic representative of the Olympian order in the treacherous realm that is the monster-breeding sea, and the erotically charged object of male attention. His intention, in his own words, was to fuse figure with setting and atmosphere, such that the Nereid was
more » ... no longer simply a figure occupying the pictorial space, but embodied in her sensual shape and expression the drawing power of the sea, as well as the vertiginous suggestion of its abysmal depths. Böcklin concludes that the Nereid's fusion with her environment leads logically to her being conceived as a mermaid, with fishtail. The sea is now no longer, as was the case in ancient iconography, a medium where the Nereid takes gentle rides on the back of always contrasting sea creatures, without ever seeming to merge with, or be affected psychologically by, their disturbing otherness, their difference from her.
doi:10.21463/shima.12.2.09 fatcat:xszv6mhy4rdbhllw7nqe6razpa