CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Fantastic Beasts in Graphic Art from the 15th to the 18th Century

Exhibition: 1 February - 12 June 2022

Whether it’s flying on a luck dragon, following a Niffler on a treasure hunt, or defeating an orc, imaginary animals, mythical creatures and monsters play a major role in contemporary childrenā€™s and young adultsā€™ literature, as well as in fantasy and science fiction films. Inspired by this theme, the Kupferstichkabinett is showcasing in its cabinet some 30 high-caliber prints, copperplate engravings and etchings from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries that illustrate the joy artists and authors take in inventing fabulous and strange creatures.

Long before the advent of more recent specimens such as the Gruffalo, or the Wrackspurts and Flobberworms from the novels of J. K. Rowling, 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 encyclopedic 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 30 prints from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century depicting imaginary creatures will be presented in this small thematic exhibition ā€“ including works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Giulio Bonasone and Hendrick Goltzius. 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.