Beautiful Monsters: Beasts and Fantastic Creatures in Early European Prints
13 Oct 2012 - 10 Mar 2013
Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton
This exhibition analyzes the representation of monstrous beings in Early Modern visual culture by bringing together approximately fifty European prints of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. The engravings, etchings and woodcuts assembled in this exhibition showcase real and fictitious beasts and monsters in exuberant and enigmatic compositions. The selection includes surprising and strange images of handsome beasts and hideous creatures executed with bravura. Often violent, they bring to light certain religious or moral anxieties, while others, such as the celebrated Battle of the Sea Gods by Andrea Mantegna, depict mythological and allegorical themes that combine beauty and the grotesque. Moreover, they bear witness to the unbridled imagination of Albrecht Dürer and Jacques Callot, among many others, and also to a collective imagination that expresses a singular vision of the world. The exhibition is divided into five sections: religious chimeras, mythological creatures, sea monsters, war horses and decorative motifs.
Albrecht Dürer. The Beast with Lamb's Horns, c. 1496-1497. Woodcut on laid paper, 38,8 x 27,9 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © NGC