Friday, November 25, 2016

Mermaid of the Moment: Nuremberg Bible Mermaids

Noah's Ark, Nuremberg Bible, Biblia Sacra Germanica, 1483

The Nuremberg Bible contains a curious woodcut illustration featuring Noah's Ark surrounded by a mermaid, merman and merdog.

The medieval text was printed by Anton Kolberger, a German goldsmith, printer and publisher, who was the godfather of artist Albrecht Durer

Here's a color version of the same image. (Click on the image to see it larger.)

Noah's Ark, Nuremberg Bible, Biblia Sacra Germanica, 1483

There are so many interesting and odd little details in this illustration--the bare-breasted (gasp!) mermaid holds a mirror and appears to be combing or tending her hair, while the merman seems to be looking at bearded Noah, who is looking at the dove with the olive branch.

And of course this mer-couple must have a pet, a loyal merdog who accompanies them on this adventure, while a standard four-legged dog looks at the mermaid from the Ark's deck.

I'm also guessing that the small orange/red pyramids towards the back of the picture are the tops of towers, now barely visible due to the complete and catastrophic flood which has been ongoing for 40 days.

I love the simplicity and humor of this illustration. And, it may have inspired me to take a closer look at other 15th century mermaids to see what they're doing.

Look for more medieval mermaids to come.


  1. Love this article - along with many things mer.
    Very well-written!
    (I wonder if those mers ever made the boat, though. ☺️)

  2. Thank you for this post since it let me find an identification of this image which is shown with today's (9/13/2017) New York Times opinion piece by David Brooks. I do not, however, believe that these are mermaids. I believe that these were women who were supposed to die in the flood because of their "iniquitous ways".