This painting from 1893 is a good example of the peculiar pictorial production of the Italian Giulio Aristide Sartorio, a painter who rode in a style that had notes of the art of Pre-Raphaelite, of symbolism and of post-impressionist movements such as modernism. In fact, we have to consider him a very heterogeneous creator who executed copies of ancient art as well as delving into techniques such as photography or lithography.
The Siren by Giulio Aristide Sartorio
The work in question has a double title The Mermaid or The Green Abyss, and its references to classical mythology are more than evident. An oil painting that today treasures the Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Turin.
The view of the painting is from above and we partially see the mermaid in the waters. And we say partially because we only contemplate her beautiful hair, her face and one of her arms on the surface, while the rest of her monstrous marine character remains hidden. We don't see it and neither does the naked boy who comes to rescue her in a small boat, not knowing that this will be the end of her.
An image linked to the sirens who lured sailors to the rocks, as famous myths such as The Odyssey tell us. The mermaids had the lower half of their bodies as if they were a sea monster, andthe upper half was that of a beautiful woman. And of course hereSartoriorepresents a sensual woman, with pale flesh, as if she had half drowned in the sea. Although the zenithal view of her makes us sense under the waters the threat of the rest of her body.
All her attractiveness, and also her eroticism, serves to make the boy, whose skin is much darker, come to her rescue. In his body, the painter shows us his perfect mastery of anatomy in art, something he learned from a young age studying and copying classic works.
The performance conveys a certain suspense, although the viewers know the cruel outcome of the scene. Knowing how dangerous the sirens are, we are aware that the boy is peering into an abyss, that green abyss mentioned in the title.
A very contemporary representation, in which we are presented with sin, as well as the duality between men and women, one showing her impetus while the other waits slyly to capture her. And it is that mermaids have always been represented as beautiful beings, but also evil, one of the most recognizable symbols of the concept of femme fatale.