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Echo and Narcissus

John William Waterhouse, 1903

WAG 2967

About this object

Narcissus was the son of the river God Cephisus and nymph Lyripe. He was desired by both men and women because of his youthful beauty. One admirer was the young man Aminias. He professed his love for Narcissus but was rejected by him. Aminias later killed himself out of grief and anger, begging the gods to teach Narcissus a lesson. They devised the ultimate revenge.

One day soon after, Narcissus is said to have come across a pool in the woods. When he leant down to drink from it, he saw the most beautiful figure in the water’s reflection. He fell instantly in love with the youth, not realising it was his own reflection. Narcissus ultimately dies from sorrow on the banks of the pool, gazing longingly at his own reflection, heartbroken that his love cannot be returned by his reflection.

The story of Narcissus has traditionally been interpreted as a warning against pride and self-love. It is important for LGBT history too. Narcissus’s beauty attracts the attention of both men and women, mortals and gods. The Ancient Greeks were comfortable with the idea that sexuality was fuelled by attraction and desire, not necessarily by gender.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    John William Waterhouse (British: English, born:1849-01, died:1917-02-10)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Oil paint; Canvas
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 109 x 189; framed 144 x 225 x 11 cm
  • Physical description
    A partially nude female figure sits beside a pond on the left. She glances over her left shoulder at a male figure who lies at the edge of the pond, staring at his refletion in the water. Yellow narcissus flowers grow nearby.
  • Related people
    John William Waterhouse (Artist/maker, previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 2967
  • Credit line
    Purchased by the Walker Art Gallery from the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1903
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 08
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • John William Waterhouse

    Owned from: 1903
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1903
    Disposal method: Sold to the Walker Art Gallery at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: J.W. Waterhouse, 1903
    Inscription method: Paint
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right
Object view = Fine Art
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LGBT collections

Explore our LGBT collections researched by our Pride and Prejudice research project