Art History · Gargoyles

Demons in Pen and Ink

In one of my last posts, I promised that I would talk about non-architectural grotesques. So meet the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, a fourteenth-century illustrated French prayer book by Jean Pucelle. It now resides at the Cloisters in New York, and I highly recommend going to see it. It is certainly not the only medieval manuscript to have grotesques, but it is the one I am most familiar with.

The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, photo from metmuseum.org
The Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, photo from metmuseum.org

The margins of the book are decorated with a variety of little people and creatures, some of which are very gargoyle-like.  It is difficult to know what to make of them. The entire manuscript is less than four inches in any direction, so the marginal illustrations are tiny! I’ve seen the book in person, and trust me, they are almost too small to make out, which makes scholars wonder why they appear there at all. Do they tell some story that is now lost to time, or do they serve another purpose altogether? They may be related to architectural gargoyles, or they may not be. As with architectural gargoyles, multiple interpretations exist. Some are similar to the theories I mentioned in my “Gargoyles Galore” post and others are very different, but none have won general acceptance thus far.

Close-up of grotesques in the Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, photo from metmuseum.org
Close-up of grotesques in the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, photo from metmuseum.org

In other news, my new follower gregorygilet sent me this great link to some kangaroo gargoyles at the University of Sydney, Australia. http://sydney.edu.au/alumni/sam/july2012/quadrangle-residents.shtml There are more photos of the school’s gargoyles here: http://sydney.edu.au/senate/Quadrangle_decorative_features_gargoyles.shtml . Thanks Gregory! I am quickly becoming interested in gargoyles made with non-traditional materials and forms. If you know of any, post them in the comments.

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