John Hamilton Mortimer, formerly attributed to Thomas Rowlandson

Fish Devouring Shell Food

Not on display

John Hamilton Mortimer 1740–1779
Formerly attributed to Thomas Rowlandson 1756–1827
Watercolour and ink on paper
Support: 280 × 424 mm
Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996

Display caption

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

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