But I’m a diver,
and I’ve been around enough
of those huge, brainless eating machines
” Who Gives A Flying Fuck About Sharks —
We Want MERMAIDS !!!! “
—- every Sailor’s waking dream.
After thousands of years of lonely men
sailing the high seas, coming back
with stories of lovely fish-like women —
or is that ,
women-like fish —
Can this be strictly a matter of imagination —
a simple case of vivid auto-erotic fixation
one thing is for sure—
Tales of mermaids
(…. sure, it’s a pun, sue me )
have been with us since almost the beginning of human history.
The Assyrians (c 2000 B.C.)
had a Goddess named Atargatis —
……….. and forever forbade her followers from eating fish.
A pity, that.
The Roman writer Ovid described Venus descending into the sea as a mermaid, to hide from the monster Typhon.
The ancients seem to have viewed the mythology of Mermaids
with a mixture of curiousity, sensuality, and dread —-
Mermaids were thought to be messengers of coming disaster ,
as well as being potentially dangerous —
These passionate maidens of the oceans were thought to raise all kinds of hell —
…. bringing flood, tsunami, and tidal waves
when they were a bit on the pissed-off side,
( much like angry human maids and maidens today )
My sweet South American friend Aquileana is an expert on mythology, and she made a very interesting comment about Mermaids :
” In Greek Mythology,
their technical name would be Nereids….
(Sirens were different, as they have birdish shape) “
Famous appearances of mermaids in literature
almost always describe mermaids as beautiful,
almost irresistible creatures—-
… including, for instance, ‘Djullanar the Sea-girl’ in Nights 738-756
of the 1001 Arabian Nights,
and she was described by the poet thus:
” I am enamoured of her: she is perfect in beauty, and perfect also in gravity and in dignity. She is neither tall nor short; but her hips are such that the izar is too narrow for them. Her stature is a mean between the small and the large: so there is neither tallness nor shortness to find fault with. Her hair reacheth to her anklets, [and is black as night,] but her face is ever like the day. ”
— it was done around 1100 AD.
Mermaids in British culture,
however, frequently presaged trouble…
……sometimes they were
simply a warning,
but other times,
they actually wrecked havoc themselves.
But not always.
About that Ceasg mythology, my buddy CrocodileJock wrote me:
“If I can add to your tale of Ceasg, the Scottish mermaid (half woman, half salmon I believe), there are the Merrow folk, also from Celtic / Highland & Island mythologies… these were a peaceful friendly race of both Mermen and Mermaids, but the lady Merrow were supposed to have a special cap, that allowed them to breathe underwater. If you captured one, and hid her cap, she would stay with you happily, as your wife, but if she ever found where you’d hidden her cap she would return to the sea, no matter how long she had spent with you. Or so my Granda’ told me. “
Also, on this subject,
my friend AEWallace sent me this info
about the Selkie myth from the Scottish Highlands:
” Ceasg sound a wee bit like The Selkie.
They look like seals but shed their skins and walk among us.
They are beauties. If you find their pelts and hide it,
they have to stay with you.
But if they find their pelts…they leave. ”
the same is said for Mermaids
around the Isle of Man,
called ‘Benvaries’ —
These maidens are of royal lineage,
and the tradition runs that,
if you’re sufficiently nice to one of them,
and can catch her,
…she’ll tell you where to find
her weight in treasure, as a sort of a ransom.
It certainly gives new meaning to the
idea of ‘catch and release’,
I’ll say that.
And this was not the case in many
other cases of human-mermaid encounters…
Atargatis just mighta
started a trend.
St. Senara’s church in Zennor,
has a 600 year old engraved pew end
dedicated to a local
Mermaid-Human love story…..
It seems that a local choir boy,
had such a lovely singing voice that a mermaid
would leave the water every evening,
struggle up the path to the church,
don a long dress to cover her fins,
and attend the nightly services to hear him sing.
One night, Matthew cast his gaze upon her,
and they fell madly in love.
They were last seen heading
toward the water, at Pendour Cove,
the Zennor Mermaid
in his arms.
But on certain summer evenings,
his melodious voice can still be heard wafting
over the waves,
singing odes and hymns
to his beloved Maid of the Waves.
I’ve heard of ‘lose the dress, keep the shoes’,
but this particular set-up baffles me….
Just don’t even ask me
how they’re gonna pull
those fin things off in order to….
… well, you know.
And even if Mermaids have been
very popular in literature—
they’ve been even more so
in Art and Movies.
What do you think of,
when I mention
” The Little Mermaid ” ?
….you think of this beautiful little lady, right here…..
She’s the official greeter of visitors
to the Langelinie district at Nyhavn, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and she’s been doing that job since 1913.
She was sculpted in bronze by Edward Erikson,
based on the fairy tale by
Hans Christian Anderson.
And I have to admit,
whenever I think of that beautiful city,
she’s the first thing that comes to mind.
( Please don’t tell a certain Danish girl named Freja I said that…. )
Bill Layne is a prolific artist
that did a whole range of
lovely postcards and illustrations
in the 40’s and 50’s,
…..and he especially loved to feature
his idea of mermaids in his illustrations.
He always put an interesting spin
on his sirens of the sea, setting up amusing situations,
and giving their lively personalities a chance
to get into a little mischief.
Today, they are very popular with collectors,
because they’re fun, playful, and wonderfully sexy.
…..like Joyce Ballantyne,
and Raphael Kirchner–
have also done really gorgeous work in this area.
Kirchner’s Mermaids are ethereal and sensual,
…and despite having been
(as most of Kirchner’s work was )
modeled after his wife,
have a very distinctive look from his other illustrations.
…. to achieve a wonderful and very effective
three dimensional effect,
….. on what is certainly,
one of his most famous paintings.
This Clive work, the Mermaid with Pearl,
was completed in 1939,
for the cover of the magazine American Weekly,
as part of their Visions of Artists series.
It was said to be one of his favorite pieces, and it is certainly one of mine.
The most amusing and unusual use
of Mermaids in modern times, though….
has to be an advertising series for
Western Fishing Line Company
that appeared in Field and Stream in the 1950’s ,
….. and in a booklet by humorist Ed Zern
called ” How to Catch a Mermaid ” ,
that is today, well,
pretty much unavailable.
Collectors swallowed em all up
like they were chum.
But have no fear, my friend …..
You know yer ole buddy
wouldn’t leave ya hangin’.
and just in case you decide to go
after one of those undersea hotties yourself ,
I wish ya Good Fishin ‘ !
” ONCE there was a man named Gus,
who was bait-casting in a lake and foul-hooked a mermaid.
When he reeled in and saw what was on his plug, he was furious. “Beat it, sister,” he hollered. “G’wan, scram! Can’t a guy fish in peace without some dizzy fish-tail dame butting in? Take off!”
I can’t, stupid,” said the mermaid, “I’m hooked right in the – well, see for yourself.”
“Gosh,” said Gus, blushing, “you sure are! Here, take my pliers.”
While the mermaid was unhooking herself,
Gus said, “Don’t you know no better than to fall for a bass plug, dopey?”
“Sure I know better,” said the mermaid, “but this one what chugging along without a line on it! When I swam over to investigate, I accidentally got hooked. How can you fish a plug without a line? ”
Can’t get enough of Mermaids?
Well, check out :
More About Mermaids – Weeki Wachee
What you think is beautiful or exotic,
I might see as florid or old fashioned.
One of my favorite pin up artists, Henry Clive,
has had his share of critics through the years,
that found fault with his lines, subjects, colors,
and particularly his sense of humor.
that, and the wonderfully
which pervades most of his best work.
are also very distinctive —
Henry Clive would have been considered
a good looking chap anywhere,
but he felt that he was destined for Hollywood—
So, at an early age,
he left his native Melbourne, Australia home,
and started out for California in 1917,
working, first as a magician,
and then, as an actor in silent films,
including landing a bad-guy role
in Charlie Chaplin’s classic “City Lights”.
Starting out simply creating
personal works for the Hollywood elite,
word of Henry’s style and pinnache
spread like a California wildfire,
including a set of works featuring Gloria Swanson,
that were screen printed on lunch boxes
and distributed to the lucky attendees of movie premieres.
Other such movie give-away items he painted during that period included Pola Negri cosmetic tins,
….and Rudolph Valentino pencil boxes.
By the early 1920’s, he was painting full time
and making a good living producing
a myriad of beautiful works for the movie industry —
a series featuring the Ziegfield Follies girls, for instance….
And, advertising posters for films like this one–
Clive’s famous and beautiful poster
“Intoxication” for Barthelmess’s film “Experience”-
I believe the joy, elation,
and color in this poster
expressed more about the Jazz Age
and it’s people than any other single
art work of the time.
It’s considered to be one of his best works,
and certainly a favorite of mine.
would also have
to mention the poster art
done for Rudolph Valentino’s
Clive was so highly
regarded in Hollywood,
that he was hired as Art Director
at Paramount Pictures.
There were very few graphic artists
that were working with kind of palette
that Clive liked to use,
And this made his ads really stand out.
His real popularity, however,
came as a result of his work
for the pulp magazines of the time —
and Theatre Magazine.
Here, his work was exposed
to a larger Jazz Age American public
clamoring for images of their favorite stars.
Clive was very prolific
during the period between 1920 and 1950–
He made his share of headlines
in the scandal sheets, too…
He was considered to be quite the ladies man,
was tied to many love trysts
with various and sundry young actresses,
and was eventually married a total of 6 times.
He lovingly reproduces his perspective
on feminine beauty with a light, stylish flair
that puts the emphasis on the charm
and attractiveness of the model,
but also reserves the right to put
his own personal spin on the scene.
Some people liken Clive’s work
to a contemporary of his,
… and while the styles are similar,
I think you can see the differences pretty easily,
especially in just how light hearted Clive’s work is,
in relation to Armstrong’s almost austere style.
Henry Clive’s most highly regarded pin up work were:
his calendar series
for the Louis F. Dow company,
including the 1925 Egyptian themed “Sultana”, (left)
his witty Christmas card-turned- poster
“Flapper Girl Painted by Pierrot”
(the top picture) ,
the aforementioned very colorful
and joyuous “Intoxication” poster for the movie “Experience”,
“Seaside Flirtation” produced for a calendar series
for the Joseph Hoover Company in 1920.
Clive lived a full life, working in both pastels
and oils up to his death in 1960.
And despite his prolific body of work,
his original canvases are a rare and valuable find —
collectors snatch them up quickly
when they become available.
Clive’s art was fresh and interesting in his day,
and I think it’s just as fresh and interesting today.
What do you think?
Drop me a line and lemme know.