Art Gallery of Alberta

Beautiful Monsters: Beasts and Fantastic Creatures in Early European Prints
October 13-March 10, 2013


image credits [click to view]


Hans Sebald Beham, Ornament with two Genii Riding on Two Chimeras, 1544. Engraving on laid paper. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © NGC

Albrecht Dürer, The Beast with Lamb’s Horns, c. 1496-1497. Woodcut on laid paper. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © NGC

Jaques Callot, The Temptation of Saint Anthony (second version), 1635. Etching on laid paper. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © NGC



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.

The exhibition has been organized by the National Gallery of Canada and curated by Sonia Del Re, Assistant Curator, European, American and Asian Prints and Drawing, National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Presented with the support of Capital Powered Art, an exhibition series sponsored by Capital Power Corporation.