This fine example of the charming art movement that was the British Pre-Raphaelite scene can now be found at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia and is one of very few original artworks from this movement to be found in the country. This particular story comes from Book XII of Homer's Odyssey. Shortly after venturing into the underworld he would come across the situation that you find here - where bird women (sirens) lure men to their death through song.

The detail in this painting is extraordinary - the canvas of two metres wide by one metre tall is filled with stimulating items from the patchwork on the ship to the facial expressions of the many sirens who hover menacingly from above. The blue tones of the turbulent waves are also very typical of Waterhouse's career, something to be found in many of his paintings. Additionally there is a background of a rock face which adds perspective to the adjoining content.

In providing this painting for display at the Royal Academy, Waterhouse provided a small additional note which tried to remind the viewer of its link with another piece that he provided at the same time. He clearly saw the two as a series and wanted to make sure that those viewing the two would understand that. Of course, the tale depicted here is very well known and shouldn't really need much explanation by itself.

Ulysses and the Sirens in Detail John William Waterhouse