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2nd half of the 4th century BC
Marble with traces of red-ochre and blue-green polychromy
H. 39.5 cm ; W. 25 cm ; D. 13 cm
Acquired by Rodin between 1893 and 1903.
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This figure of a siren with outspread wings once adorned an acroterion, the decorative motif at the apex of a funerary stele.This sea monster, with a woman’s head and bust on a bird’s body and feet, conventionally beat her breast while her mournful singing accompanied the funeral cortege.
In 1903, this statue could be admired on Rodin’s dining-room table, in the Villa des Brillants, Meudon. Rodin ignored the traces of ancient polychromy to concentrate on the play of light and shadow that enlivened the modelling of the statue, coloured pale amber by the earth from which it was excavated.
The sculptor liked its simplified form that mirrored his own sketches of vase-like women with hour-glass bodies, enhanced by ochre water-colours, whose arm movements sometimes resembled the handle of an amphora . Her tilted head, dreamy expression and melancholy wailing prompt us to re-examine the countless female figures on The Gates of Hell, including the Three Sirens group that made its appearance before 1887.