Imaginary Creatures in Graphic Art From the 15th to the 17th Century

01.02.2022 to 06.06.2022

Imaginary animals, mythical creatures and monsters play a major role in contemporary children’s and young adults’ literature as well as in fantasy and science fiction films. Who hasn’t dreamt of flying on a luck dragon, following a Niffler on a treasure hunt, defeating an orc or befriending a talking fox? In addition to classic mythical creatures such as dragons, unicorns or griffins, countless new animals have been created in recent years – such as the Gruffalo, or the Wrackspurts and Flobberworms from the novels of J. K. Rowling – that have captured the imagination of generations. 

Since antiquity, authors and artists have not only been preoccupied with real-life animals but also with magical creatures, whose existence has been invoked in legends, described in encyclopaedic compendia and imagined in works of art. Even Egyptian sculptures, Greek vases and Persian miniatures reveal hybrid creatures made up of various animals that took on religious and symbolic functions. At the same time, with the help of these magical creatures, people were able to explain unknown natural phenomena and discuss fears and strange occurrences. The ability of these creatures to transform and change has preoccupied art just as much as their thoroughly ambivalent relationship to humans, which oscillates between terrifying, evil incarnations and divine figures of benevolence.

Around 20 prints from the 15th to the 17th century depicting imaginary creatures will be presented in this small thematic exhibition. All of the works have been taken from the rich holdings of the Kupferstichkabinett. Virtuosic copperplate engravings and detailed etchings illustrate the immense joy that comes from inventing and depicting the fabulous and the strange, be it as an ornament, as a representation of hell or as a tale in Greek mythology.

A special exhibition by the Kupferstichkabinett at the Gemäldegalerie.

10785 Berlin

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