Advert for the Royal Aquarium 817
Printer: Burt & Sons
Medium: Print on paper
'Mermaids' were a particular curiosity in the aquariums and natural history shows of Victorian Britain. Sailors would sometimes return from sea claiming to have found the body of a mermaid on the tide. These so-called mermaid corpses were very often stitched-together composites of other animals - frequently a monkey torso attached to the tail of a large fish.
This exhibit would have been of less concern to the anti-vivisectionists of the time, advertising itself explicitly as an illusion. The "good looking living mermaid" here was apparently "submerged in a glass tank with live fish", with "all sides of the tank ... open to the inspection of visitors". It is clear from this that the 'mermaid' was sitting in an air-filled tank within a thinner, water-filled tank.