Correspondence, 73.62, 73.64, 73.68.◦
Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 172.
Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 134 (no. 234).◦
WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 85.
The picture is yet another exploration of the figure of a dangerous Beauty, nearly always
represented as a woman (e.g., La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Lilith). This work is perhaps most
closely related to the elaborate oil of 1877, A Sea Spell, which gives another representation of a siren. In Ligeia Siren the
vessel in the seascape background is a clear allusion to Ulysses and the general tradition of
sailing adventurers who are lured toward destruction by the singing of the sirens.
Traditonal Greek legend most often names Parthenope, Ligeia, and Leucosia as the sirens, but
different texts identify as many as eight sirens. In a manuscript draft of epigraphs for his early poem “The Card-Dealer”, DGR invented a source text with three sirens named Telxiope, Telsinoe, and
Aglaophemia. DGR's most intense textual treatments of this set of topics and themes is made in
“The Doom of the Sirens” and the related story “The Orchard-pit”.
The chalk drawing was begun in late February 1873 and completed, apparently, in March. He
wrote to Madox Brown on February 26 that “We have in the house a singular housemaid
of advanced ideas, known to Dunn, and come hither as a model, not as a housemaid. I am making
a drawing of her, and she does well enough.” The model, he noted in a letter to
Brown of 4 March, was “one found by Dunn [and I] have made from her a drawing
nearly down to the knees of a naked Siren playing on an extraordinary lute, which is certainly
one of my best doings. I might probably have set to and painted it, but the girl could not
stay longer at present.” On March 2 DGR wrote to Howell, who bought the picture from
him, that “I have had a model here for four days - she went yesterday evening. I
repainted from her that head in Leyland's picture, and have made a drawing from
her—naked and almost to the knees—of a Siren playing on a lute. It is
one of my very best things, and the unpopular central detail [i.e., her
pudendum] will eventually be masked by a fillet of flying drapery coming from a veil twisted
in the hair so as to render it saleable.” (see
Correspondence, 73.62, 73.64, 73.68