‘The room of enlightenment’ is always the first place to explore when we visit the British Museum.
One of our favourite objects is the ‘Mermaid’. A strange mixture of monkey and fish stitched together by an imaginative 18th century oddball to bring reality to the creature of seafarer’s myth.
Like most objects in the room it lies in the darkened shadows of one of the many curiosity cabinets that surround the room.
The mermaid epitomises the most interesting characteristics of humanity; creativity and imagination. It’s quite extraordinary that someone would make so much effort to realize this creature and totally ignore the general view of a beautiful & alluring vision that would drive sailors to despair. Even the scale has no part in the myth, this object is just over a foot long.
But with all the faults that seem so apparent in the disparity between the object and it’s subject, the mermaid for us, does succeed in providing a far more important element; a belief in imagination and the triumph of a mind still open to possibilities.