Heinrich Heine's poem 'Die Lorelei' immortalized the romantic German legend of Lorelei, a maiden who was transformed into a siren after throwing herself into the river. She could be heard singing from a rock along the river, her alluring voice distracting sailors and causing them to sleep, resulting in their death.
This fountain, carved out of white marble, depicts Lorelei seated on a rock in the Rhine River among mermaids, dolphins, and seashells. The fountain was commissioned in 1888 for the city of Düsseldorf, but the city declined the fountain and it ended up in the Bronx in 1899.
There is of course a statue of Lorelei in Germany as well, created much later however - in 1983. It sits in the Rhine River, and you can see it on the Lorelei statue page.
The fountain is dedicated to the memory of German poet and writer Heinrich Heine. This sculpture has Lorelei at the top, attended by 3 mermaids in the basin of the fountain, who represent Poetry, Satire and Melancholy. On the pedestal is a relief portrait of Heine, and the sculpture is rich with symbology relating to Heine’s profession as a writer of many genres.
Controversial from the beginning – fueled both by the nudity and by anti-semitism (Heine was born Jewish) – the sculpture has been vandalized and restored a number of times, with the latest restoration in 1999 also placing it here in the Joyce Kilmer Park, three blocks from its original location.