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Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art

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Author Topic: Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art  (Read 1734 times)
Demon Queen
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« Reply #30 on: June 18, 2009, 01:34:23 pm »

the quality represented to be his wit and cunning, but not his pilfering and stealing;" and so of other beasts. Even in wild and ruthless animals and fictitious creatures, symbolic heraldry delights in setting forth their most commendable qualities, as fierceness and courage in overcoming enemies, though they may also possess most detestable qualities.

In like manner all sorts of peaceable or gentle-natured creatures must be set forth in their most noble and kindly action, each in its disposition and that which is most agreeable to nature, rather than of an opposite character. Heraldic art thus stamps a peculiar note of dignity for some particular respect in the emblematic figures it accepts, as for some special use, quality or action in the thing depicted; and this dignity or nobility may have a twofold relation, one betwixt creatures of divers kinds, as a lion or a stag, a wolf and a lamb; the other between beings of one and the same kind, according to their various attitudes or positions in which they may be represented, as a stag courant or at speed, and a stag lodged or at bay; a lion rampant and a lion coward—one will keep the field, the other seek safety in flight, just as one attitude conveys a different signification from another.



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« Reply #31 on: June 23, 2009, 01:04:36 pm »

p. 22

The Heraldic Spirit—Effective decorative Quality essential in Heraldry


It will be observable that in the hands of a capable designer imbued with the true heraldic spirit, all objects, animate and inanimate, conform after their kind to decorative necessities, and assume shapes more or less conventional, and, as far as is consistent with effective display of the charge, are made to accommodate themselves to the space they must occupy. Fierce and savage beasts are made to look full of energy and angry power, while gentle-natured creatures are made to retain their harmless traits. In a monster of the dragon tribe, strong leathern wings add to his terrors; his jaws are wide, his claws are strong and sharp; he is clothed in impenetrable armour of plates and scales, his breath is fire and flame, lightning darts from his eyes, he lashes his tail in fury; and all the while the artist is most careful so to spread the creature out on shield or banner that all his powers shall be displayed at once.

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« Reply #32 on: June 23, 2009, 01:04:51 pm »

Whatever liberty the artist may take in his interpretation of the form of bird, beast, or monster, there is, however, a limit to his licence beyond which he may not go. He may not alter the recognised symbolic attitude, nor change the tincture; he is scarcely at liberty to add a feature. He may curl the mane of his lion, fancifully develop its tongue

p. 23

and tail, and display its claws in a manner for which there is little or no authority in nature; but if he add wings, or endow it with a plurality of heads or tails, it instantly becomes another creature and a totally different symbol. * A wise reticence in treatment is more to be commended than such fanciful extravagance.

The early artists and heralds, in their strivings to exaggerate in a conventional manner the characteristics of animals for their most effective display, appear to have reached the limits of which their art was capable, and important lessons may be gained from their works. With the extended knowledge of natural history, and the advanced state of art at the present day, decorative and symbolic heraldry should take a leading place in the twentieth century, as in the words of Ruskin, it has been "hitherto the most brilliant" and "most effective of the Arts."




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« Reply #33 on: June 23, 2009, 01:05:04 pm »

Footnotes
23:* The above notes on heraldic treatment are largely adapted from the admirable works on Decorative Art, by Louis F. Day.



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« Reply #34 on: June 23, 2009, 01:06:35 pm »

p. 24 p. 25

Celestial Beings
p. 26 p. 27

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« Reply #35 on: June 23, 2009, 01:06:52 pm »

Angels

"They boast ethereal vigour and are form’d
 From seeds of heavenly birth.—Virgil.

"Down hither prone in flight
 He speeds, and through the vast ethereal sky
 Sails between world and world with steady wings:
 Now on the polar wind, then with quick fan
 Winnows the buxom air."—Milton.

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« Reply #36 on: June 23, 2009, 01:07:22 pm »

ANGELS and Archangels the mind loves to contemplate as the ministers of God's omnipotence and beneficence, and delights in believing these celestial beings to be endowed with a higher and purer intelligence, and as being nearer to the divine nature. In all ages civilised man has thought of them and represented them in art as of

p. 28

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« Reply #37 on: June 23, 2009, 01:07:48 pm »

form like to his own, and with attributes of volition and power suggested by wings. Scripture itself justifies the similitude; the Almighty is sublimely represented as "walking upon the wings of the wind." Wings have always been the symbol or attribute of

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« Reply #38 on: June 23, 2009, 01:08:05 pm »

volition, of mind, or of the spirit or air. No apter emblem could be found for a rapid and resistless element than birds or the wings of birds; and however incongruous such appendages may be, and anatomically impossible, it is figuratively as the messengers of God's will to man that we have come to view these celestial habitants.

The idea of adding wings to the human form has existed from remote antiquity, and for the earliest suggestion of celestial beings of the winged human type we must look to the art works of Egypt and Assyria. In Egyptian art, Neith, the goddess of the heavens, was sometimes represented with wings, and in the marbles of Nineveh we find human figures displaying four wings. * In classic art wings are


p. 29

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« Reply #39 on: June 23, 2009, 01:08:16 pm »

given to certain divinities and genii. The Jews probably borrowed the idea from the Egyptians, and the early Christians adopted—in this as in many other instances—existing 
ideas in their symbolical art to express the attribute of swiftness and power, and the sanction of the practice doubtless fixed it for acceptance through all future epochs of Christian Art.

In holy writ and Jewish tradition angels are usually spoken of as men, and their wings appear to be implied rather than expressed, as when Abraham in the plains of Mamré addresses his celestial visitors as "my lord," when Jacob wrestles with the angel, and more particularly when the Angel at the Sepulchre is described by St. Matthew, "His countenance was like the lightning and his raiment white as snow," and by St. Mark as A young man clothed in a long white garment."

The Seraphim and Cherubim as winged beings are more perfectly described in the Scriptures.

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« Reply #40 on: June 23, 2009, 01:08:32 pm »

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« Reply #41 on: June 23, 2009, 01:08:50 pm »

The Wings Variously Coloured.—Not content with a simple departure in form from all natural wings, the early and Middle Age artists resorted to many

p. 30

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« Reply #42 on: June 23, 2009, 01:09:06 pm »

expedients to invest their angels’ wings with unearthly characteristics. Colour was a fertile field for their ingenuity, and they lavished all their brilliant hues in accentuating or separating the several orders of feathers comprising the wings; now rivalling the rainbow, now applying the startling contrasts of the most gorgeous tropical butterfly; at other times sprinkling or tipping the richly painted feathers with burnished gold, or making them appear alive with brilliant eyes.

Vesture.—In Early Christian Art the white vesture spoken of by St. Matthew and St. John, almost invariably adopted, consisted of garments resembling the classic tunica and pallium, sometimes bound with the "golden girdle" of Revelation. During the mediæval period they were clad in every brilliant colour. Angels do not often appear in the works of art executed during the first six centuries of the Church; and previous to the fifth century they were invariably represented without the nimbus—that attribute of divinity with which they were almost always invested throughout the whole range of Middle Age art.

Nimbus.—The nimbi given to all the orders of the angelic hierarchy are circular in form, with their fields either plain or covered with numerous radiating lines or rays, sometimes with broad borders of ornament, but never with the tri-radiate form, which was specially reserved for the persons of the trinity.

p. 31

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« Reply #43 on: June 23, 2009, 01:09:29 pm »

Lord Bacon ("Advancement of Learning," Book i.) says we find, as far as credit is to be given to the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the supposed Dionysius, the Senator of Athens, that the first place or degree is given to the angels of love, which are termed Seraphim; the second to the angels of light, which are termed Cherubim; and the third, and so following places, to thrones, principalities, and the rest, which are all angels of power and ministry, so that the angels of knowledge and illumination are placed before the angels of office and domination.

Fallen Angels.—We learn from Tradition that many angels, originally holy like the rest, fell from their pristine purity, becoming so transformed in character that all their powers are now used for the purpose of doing evil instead of doing good. These are to be identified with the devils so frequently mentioned in holy writ. By the artists of the Middle Ages they are depicted in as hideous a manner as could be conceived, more generally of the Satyr form with horns and hoofs and tail, which last connects them with the Dragon of the Apocalypse, the impersonation of the Supreme Spirit of evil (see Dragon). In Milton's conception Satan—the fallen Angel—assumes noble and magnificent proportions.


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« Reply #44 on: June 23, 2009, 01:10:23 pm »

Footnotes
28:* See Audsley's "Glossary of Architecture," "Angel," p. 101.

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