Folios 28r-29v of the precious, carefully disposed parchment-bound Codex Barberini in the Vatican Library (Vat. Lat. 4424) consist of sketches representing Greek antiquities, which in their turn copy lost drawings by the Italian merchant and antiquarian Ciriaco de’ Pizzecoli, better known as Ciriaco d’Ancona (1391-1452). On folio 28r of the Codex Barberini appears the fanciful portrait of the Nereid Kymodoke on the lower left part of the page.
In this paper a thorough analysis of the peculiar iconography of the “Kymodoke” is offered on the basis of its three most striking iconographic signs: the fishtail, the dolphins and the ship-holding motif. The “Kymodoke” portrait appears in the light of the present study as the result of an erudite combination of antique citations (the giant of the Odeon from the ancient Agora in Athens, a Skylla gem, perhaps also the recollection of representations of dolphins in antique mosaics), mixed with a small portion of “contemporary”, i.e. Byzantine art by the adoption of the motif of ship-holding from Byzantine representations of the personification of the Sea in depictions of the Last Judgment. Ciriacos’s source of inspiration for the adaptation in his “Kymodoke” of this peculiar iconographic detail of the personification of the Sea holding a ship, is traced in Crete and is more concretely identified with the representation of this subject in the unpretentious chapel of the Archangel Michael, in the district of Temenos, not far from the village of Archanes, close to Herakleion. The church was donated by Michail Patsidiotes and his wife in the years 1315-1316 and must have been visited by Ciriaco d’Ancona during his Cretan Journey in the summer of the year 1445.