In Greek mythology the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull, was appeased by annual human sacrifices. Every year, seven youths and seven virgins were shipped from mainland Athens to the Island of Crete to be devoured by the monster. In Watts's painting, the Minotaur leans out across the sea from a high parapet in anticipation of the ship's arrival. The yellow sunlight of the breaking dawn glints off the shoulder of the beast, accentuating his powerful body and catching the hairs of the tail that flicks out behind him. On the parapet, the Minotaur's large, hoof-like fist has crushed a small bird, a recognised symbol of the innocence and purity of youth.