Artist: De Morgan, Evelyn
Object Number: P_EDM_0016
Date: 1885 - 1886
Category: Oil on canvas, Paintings, and Queen's House
Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Framed: H 818 x W1428 x D 55 mm
Inscriptions: Signature, 1886, ‘18EP85-6’

This group of five mermaids is linked to the story of the little mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson. The little mermaid falls in love with a shipwrecked Prince and thus desperately wants to be human. Helped by a witch, she changes her tail into legs, but as a forfeit she loses the power of speech and can’t tell the Prince of her love. He falls in love with someone else and she wishes to return to the sea.

In this painting the five older sisters of the Little Mermaid are depicted with their abundant flowing hair, which they later sell to the Sea Witch in exchange for a knife, with which the Little Mermaid can kill her unrequited love, the Prince. However, unable to go through with the act the little seamaid drowns herself instead.

This painting displays Evelyn’s mastery with the brush and frothy peaks of waves and ripples cover the visible beautiful scaled fish tails of the mermaids. However, their cold eyes and inexpressive faces alludes to their lack of immortal soul. The model for all five sisters was Evelyn’s maid Jane Hales.