View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
The fish in this drawing seem
to be half-human and half-monster.
Mortimer often drew such imaginative
sea-monsters during the 1770s.
The subject may have been taken
from an emblem devised by the Italian author Andrea Alciati, which shows
a dolphin washed up on a rocky shore. Alciati uses the image to compare
the ferocious nature of the sea
with human passions, which when indulged lead to self-destruction
- here represented by the fish who
gorge themselves on shell food.
Gallery label, September 2004