The Painting

“…a disgusting combination of voluptuousness and loathsome putridity – glowing in colour and wonderful in execution, but conceived in the worst possible taste.”

Spectator, 6 May 1837

The Sirens and Ulysses has quite a history. William Etty regarded it as his best work. But his depiction of the Sirens – as dangerous temptresses luring unwary sailors to their deaths – horrified the nineteenth century audience and divided public and academic opinion.

Etty’s sensuous depictions of the female figure earned him both membership of the Royal Academy and a reputation for indecency. Nearly 200 years later, The Sirens and Ulysses still provokes an extreme response.