Sea nymphs of classical mythology set to make a splash at West Downs

7 Feb 2024


Blue plaque showing water goddess swimming amongst water plantsThe Nereids, the sea nymphs of classical mythology, have inspired artists for centuries.

The latest group to capture their spirit is The Lettering Arts Trust, which is due to bring its touring exhibition The Nereids to the University of Winchester’s West Downs Gallery (21 February- 23 April).

The show features 27 images of the legendary sea sprites, attendants of Poseidon, who befriended and protected sailors.

Among them are Doris who represents the sea’s bounty, Doto who gave safe passage to sailors, Glauke of the ‘blue-grey’ waters, and Menippe the “Nereid of strong horses” (breaking waves).

Each one has been interpreted by a skilled lettering artist and presented as stone or wood carvings, calligraphy, letterpress or mixed media artworks. All are for sale, with prices ranging from £250 to £2500. 

Black plaque with horses heads carved in white

The Lettering Arts Trust is a charity founded to foster, sustain and promote the craft of letter cutting.

Proceeds from the trust’s sales are invested in training schemes which provide apprenticeships and work opportunities for those seeking to learn or hone their skills in this ancient craft.

Karoline Newman, exhibition curator and trustee, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the University of Winchester to bring the intricate work of contemporary lettering artists to new audiences.

 “It demonstrates that the precious craft of hand lettering and hand carving is as relevant today as it always has been – and cannot be replaced or replicated by machines.  It is really important that we conserve and sustain this important heritage craft for the future.”

The Nereids exhibition is open Monday to Friday from 8.30pm to 6pm and from 9am to 4pm on Saturday. NB parking is not available on weekdays until after 4pm.

Pictured top: Doris by Charlotte Howarth and (above) Menippe by Gordon and Hayes.

Nereids talk focuses on Achilles' mother

The Nereids were the daughters of Nereus, the ‘honest old man of the sea’, married to Doris, the daughter of Oceanus.

 They played an important role in Greek myth and were a popular subject for ancient authors and artists. One of the most famous is Thetis, mother to the hero Achilles, who is the focus of a talk by Dr Polly Stoker, who leads the BA (Hons) programme in Classical Studies at the University.”

Polly’s free lecture, Thetis and Her Sisters: Nereids in Greek Myth and Thought takes place on March 6 at 6pm in the  West Downs Centre.  To book a place visit



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