Sirens were dangerous bird-like females who tempted sailors with their hauntingly beautiful song. In Homer’s Odyssey (XII, 39) Odysseus and his sailors were warned about the lethal consequences of succumbing to the music of the sirens. Odysseus had to be lashed to the mast of his ship, and his sailors filled their ears with beeswax in order to avoid the sirens’ allure.
After centuries of verbal story-telling in the region, the Homeric epics were written down around the end of the 8th century or the beginning of the 7th century B.C. And although no visual description was given by Homer, by the 7th century B.C., sirens were regularly depicted in art as human-headed birds, possibly influenced by the Ba -bird of Egyptian religion. In early Greek art, the sirens were generally represented as large birds with women's heads, bird feathers and scaly feet.
This beautifully modelled figure was possibly an attachment or terminal to a bronze vessel or mirror. Although the shaping and lack of attachment loops or flat surface plates suggest that this could also have been a stand-alone votive figure. With a placid face, upright body, slightly flaring incised wings and claw-like talons, this female siren has close comparables found in the metropolitan museum, New York (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/256250) and the British Museum (1865,0720.46), although both are lacking the definition and beauty of the present example.
Previously in the Private Collection of museum curator, publisher and director of the Presses Universitaires de France between 1934-1976 Mr Paul-Joseph Angoulvent (1899-1976), France, prior to 1976.
Thence by descent, France (accompanied by French cultural passport 238899).
ALR: S00226288 , with IADAA certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database.
Paul-Joseph Angoulvent (b.1899-d.1976) was curator of the ‘Chalcographie du Louvre’ in the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, he published numerous catalogues and monographs from the Louvre Museum funds. In 1934, he founded the publishing house ‘Quadriga’, which soon evolved to become the ‘Presses Universitaires de France’ (PUF). Around 1941 Angoulvent established the popular short format publication series ‘Que sais-je?’ (What do I know?), the collection which still exists today has over 3,900 titles by more than 2,500 authors and translated into more than 43 languages.
It is known that he had a wide-reaching interest in antiquities and archaeology, helping to publish various titles such as ‘Greek Bronzes’ by Jean Charbonneaux. He kept a record of much of his collection with handwritten notations, showing that he was collecting from as early as 1927.
Angoulvent remained president of PUF until 1968, and chairman of the supervisory board until 1974. The tradition of working for the PUF stayed within the family, with his son Pierre Angoulvent acting as chairman of the board from 1968 to 1994, and more recently his author granddaughter Anne-Laure Angoulvent-Michel.