When the animal kingdom met the artistic imagination, the result was a whole zoo full of fantastical creatures from dragons to unicorns, phoenixes to sphinxes. These strange mythological beasts haven usually taken on symbolic significance, and reappeared time and again in art made by different cultures across time, as shown by an ambitious new survey of more than 250 objects opening this fall at the Louvre-Lens.
This wide-ranging, whistle-stop tour starts off in the Bronze Age. The oldest surviving fragments of cave art are proof enough that humans have long been driven to depict the wonders of the natural world, but it wasn’t long before we started taking a bit of creative license. One of the show’s earliest exhibits, a Mesopotamian seal cylinder that dates back to 3300–3000 B.C.E., features a lion-headed eagle.
Featured Image: Henry Fuseli, Thor fighting the serpent of Midgard (1790). Photo: © akg-images, Royal Academy of Arts, London.
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