Beautiful Monsters: Beasts and Fantastic Creatures in Early European Prints
20 Sep 2014 - 04 Jan 2015
The Rooms, St John’s, NL
This exhibition explores the representation of monstrous creatures in early European art by bringing together approximately fifty prints from 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 feature real and fictitious beasts and monsters in exuberant and enigmatic compositions. Handsome beasts and hideous creatures, boldly represented, vie for attention in this selection of surprisingly fantastical and strange images. Often violent, they bring to light certain religious or moral anxieties, whereas others, such as Andrea Mantegna’s famous Battle of the Sea Gods (left side), depict mythological or allegorical themes that combine the grotesque and the beautiful. In addition, the prints bear witness to the unbridled creativity of Albrecht Dürer and Jacques Callot, among others, and also to a collective imagination evoking a singular vision of the world. The exhibition has five thematic sections: religious chimeras, mythological creatures, sea monsters, the horse as beast, and ornamental monsters.
Battle of the Sea Gods (left side), c. 1485 1488
Engraving on laid paper, 28 x 42.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Photo © NGC