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Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World

Posted Sept. 22, 2019, 9:31 a.m. by T

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Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World

J. Paul Getty Museum


Based on an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World the focus is firmly on what became known as the “bestiarum vocabulum”, a relict from mediaeval times that was in essence a sammelsurium comprising depictions, illustrations and elaborations on beasts both real and imaginary, framed by moral lessons.

Divided into five central themes, this tome is nothing but fascinating and a feast for the eyes as the foci are shown with a vibrancy the intricacy of the details of which are mind-blowing.

Based on concepts that are largely based on the Christian bible, beasts were used to signify the symbolism in a bid to portray deeper meaning, the layers of which are leading down rabbit holes of myths that are enhanced by vivid imaginations.

The depictions are iconic and are borderline atavistic in that they still to this convey and hold significance no matter how far you consider yourself removed from the beliefs they originated from.

Not unlike fairy tales for adults, there is wonder and bemusement in equal measures and one of the more interesting takeaways is that most of the “beasts” are not only still omnipresent in our lives but have established themselves as integral stereotypes.

A truly wonderful book that is a unique hybrid of encyclopedia, storybook, history book and one on art and apart from all that a feast for the eyes that serves as a sheer endless source of inspiration.

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