The Fisherman and the Mermaid

Elihu Vedder, American, 1836 - 1923

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1879

Oil on canvas

Overall: 16 9/16 × 28 9/16 in. (42 × 72.5 cm)

Frame: 23 7/8 × 35 3/4 in. (60.6 × 90.8 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Gift of Dana and Miroslav J. Polak

P.982.53

Geography

Place Made: United States, North America

Period

19th century

Object Name

Painting

Research Area

Painting

On view

Inscriptions

Signed and dated, lower left: E. Vedder - 1879

Label

The sarcophagus fragment below features a sculpted arrangement of mythological water-beings. At the far left, a human-bodied, horse-legged, fished-tailed ichthyocentaur kisses a nereid, or water nymph. On the far right, a triton, or merman, holds the arm of a second nereid, the latter of whom leads a sea horse into paradise.

In the painting above, Elihu Vedder shows a fisherman with a siren (or mermaid) whom he has caught at sea. Vedder lived and worked in Italy at the time he painted this work, and antiquities featuring mythological scenes, such as the sarcophagus below, influenced his choice of subject matter. Both Vedder and the once-known maker of this sarcophagus meditated on similar themes, prompting viewers then and now to consider the connections between water, life, and the unknown.

Written by Nathan Savo, Class of 1954 Intern

From the 2023 exhibition Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

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The sarcophagus fragment below features a sculpted arrangement of mythological water-beings. At the far left, a human-bodied, horse-legged, fished-tailed ichthyocentaur kisses a nereid, or water nymph. On the far right, a triton, or merman, holds the arm of a second nereid, the latter of whom leads a sea horse into paradise.

In the painting above, Elihu Vedder shows a fisherman with a siren (or mermaid) whom he has caught at sea. Vedder lived and worked in Italy at the time he painted this work, and antiquities featuring mythological scenes, such as the sarcophagus below, influenced his choice of subject matter. Both Vedder and the once-known maker of this sarcophagus meditated on similar themes, prompting viewers then and now to consider the connections between water, life, and the unknown.

From the 2023 exhibition Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

Course History

WGST 51.8, The Femme Fatale in Literature, Film, and Myth, Paul Carranza, Spring 2014

First Year Student Enrichment Program - Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Francine A'Ness, Summer 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Art History 40.01, American Art and Identity, Mary Coffey, Fall 2023

Creative Writing 10.02, Writing and Reading Fiction, Katherine Crouch, Fall 2023

Geography 11.01, Qualitative Methods, Emma Colven, Fall 2023

Geography 2.01, Introduction to Human Geography, Coleen Fox, Fall 2023

Geography 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Galleries, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 9-December 9, 2007.

American Viewpoints: Painting and Sculpture from the Hood Museum of Art, Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, California, May 5-August 31, 2003.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, February 2, 2015.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 1, 1993-March 10, 1996.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 16, 1999-April 17, 2001.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 19, 2003-August 21, 2006.

Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, Israel Sack Gallery and the Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 29, 2023-June 16, 2024.

Recent Acquistions: Carracci to Warhol, Lower Jewett Corridor, Hopkins Center Art Galleries, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, October-December 1983.

Publication History

Treasures of the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 1985, p. 113, no. 100.

Barbara J. MacAdam, American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Muesum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2007, p. 61, no. 40.

Provenance

Probably sold to Mrs. Lorenzo G. [or E.] Woodhouse, 1878; to Mr. S[teve] S. Cumming[s]; on extended loan to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1909-1936; given to Anita Vedder, 1938;...; Dana and Miroslav J. Polak, Burbank, California; given to present collection, 1982.

Catalogue Raisonne

Probably Regina Sonia, "Elihu Vedder, American visionary artist in Rome (1836-1923)," Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970, no. 332.

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