Catching a Mermaid

Image credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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Two boys and a girl are portrayed on rocks at the water's edge. The narrative indicates that they have discovered a wrecked ship's figurehead and, armed with ropes and a boat hook, attempt to haul it ashore. Two of the children sit on the long boat hook. The girl restrains the younger boy, while the older boy perches near the edge of the rocks and secures the figurehead with a rope. On their narrow platform the children provide an essential counterpoint to the sweeping seascape behind. The sentiment of the title positions the children as innocents mistaking the reality of the figurehead for a fictional mermaid. In a work designed to appeal to the emotions, even the children's innocent pleasure contains a paradox. The wooden image hints at storms and disasters in an otherwise innocuous scene, and its colour and form are reminiscent of a cadaver.

National Maritime Museum



Catching a Mermaid




oil on canvas


H 91.5 x W 139.3 cm

Accession number


Work type



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