I have been reading literature on medieval grotesque for a few months now, and while I have no evidence for what I am about to say, I still feel that I am right. Art Grotesque has gone through quite the evolution through history, and these days holds little if any resemblance to what it once was.
(If I got it wrong with any of the images, please let me know
and I’ll change/remove if/when necessary – thanks in advance.)
I dare state this, due to what I have come to realize about the grotesque during the Middle Ages and what the grotesque was in the 19th century – and that these two are completely different things.
The medieval grotesque is much closer to the first findings of the grotesquerie. Thus, much like its predecessors in ancient Egypt, Athen and Rome, the focus was much more on laughter. There are differences between these periods as well, but laughter is what the grotesque was all about.
Quite differently from the grotesque in the 19th century, where the focus has shifted from the external world to the internal world. There’s quite the difference between focusing on the physical body, and the inner strange worlds of the mind.
What’s also very interesting is the length (in terms of time) of the Middle Ages, and how much the grotesque changed during these years.
One of the things that strike me is the extremes to which the grotesque go in its societal criticism, thus, the importance to learn more about what the society looked like in whichever period one is interested in, to gain a deeper understanding of it.
I already have bought more books on various aspects of medieval life than I thought I ever would, and yet, I’m just starting out. I’ll end up needing bookshelves everywhere in my home.
Among all of the “one of the things I find extremely interesting”, is one thing that I find extremely interesting;
Namely; how many of the descriptive words of the grotesque that are applicable on both the Middle Ages and the 19th century. I’ll get into that in more detail later.
Something else I find interesting is how my personal taste differs between Medieval and 19th century grotesquerie.
Medieval grotesque is fascinating due to the extreme complexity of it. Much more so than I could ever have imagined. It is so much more than cute or ridiculous doodles in the marigins of a manuscript, or someone being ridiculed at any carneval or festivity of some sort. But the aesthetics of it does not appeal to me in any larger degree.
19th century grotesque, on the other hand, is so very interesting because of the growing participation of horror and terror, the inner worlds of the mind, and so on. Now, I do admit being prone to enjoying photography and literature from this era, but the aesthetics of those are just eyecandy.
Now, these two periods are what I am mainly interested in when it comes to Art Grotesque. It’s taken me a while to introduce myself to the medieval grotesquerie, but now that I’ve done so (with a strong emphasis on introduced) I’ll be able to start writing a bit more frequently again.
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