Nisus and Scylla. A.M.2598.

WAG 7671


This is part of a group of drawings by British artist and book illustrator Edward Francis Burney, depicting scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. This composition was used for a headpiece in 'Le Souvenir', a memorandum book published by Suttaby, Evance, Fox, Richardson/London in 1822, on the page for 16th January. Nisus, King of Megara, sported a purple lock of hair which had magical properties, guaranteed his life and protected his kingdom. King Minos of Crete beseiged Megara, but found Nisus to be a challenging opponent thanks to his hair. However, Nisus' daughter, Scylla, fell in love with King Minos and cut the magical lock of hair from her father's head while he slept. Depending on the version of the myth, Nisus either killed himself or was killed, and then transformed into a sea eagle. Scylla later drowned, likely after being dragged after Minos' ship following his disgust at her betrayal. She too was transformed into a sea bird, possibly a heron, which was forever pursued by a sea eagle.