Legendary Creatures, Mythology
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Bestiary, Illuminated Manuscript (ca. 1270)

A Siren and a Centaur, Bestiary ca. 1270

Bestiaries – books of beasts – were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals and legendary creatures. Each beast was an allegory: “Animals, both real and imagined, wild and domestic, were thought to have significance beyond themselves” (James Grout). For example, the pelican, devoted to its children, was believed to tear open its breast to revive its young with its own blood – a symbolic representation of Jesus Christ. The dragon – the greatest serpent of all – is linked to the devil.

The following images are from an illuminated manuscript found at The Getty database as part of their Open Content Program. The book is from Franco-Flamish origin and dates back to ca. 1270. The illuminator is unknown, the materials used were tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment. The author of the book is Hugo of Fouilloy.

A Dragon Flying over a Panther, Bestiary ca. 1270

A Dragon Flying over a Panther

A Hyena, Bestiary ca. 1270

A Hyena

Samson Wrestling with the Lion, Bestiary ca. 1270

Samson Wrestling with the Lion

A Naked Man and Woman, Bestiary ca. 1270

A Naked Man and Woman

A Pelican Feeding her Young, Bestiary ca. 1270

A Pelican Feeding her Young

A Phoenix, Bestiary ca. 1270

A Phoenix

A Man Enthroned within a Mandorla in a Tree, Bestiary ca. 1270

A Man Enthroned within a Mandorla in a Tree

An Antelope with its Horns Entangled in a Bush, Bestiary ca. 1270

An Antelope with its Horns Entangled in a Bush

A Dragon, Bestiary ca. 1270

A Dragon

A Monkey, Bestiary ca. 1270

A Monkey

A Dragon-like Snake, Bestiary ca. 1270

Another full-page view: A Dragon-like Snake

Header image: A Siren and a Centaur

Images: Public DomainDigital images part of the Getty’s Open Content Program

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