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.
Header image: A Siren and a Centaur
Images: Public Domain, Digital images part of the Getty’s Open Content Program