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Medieval Monsters: Terrors, Aliens, Wonders

Morgan Library & Museum, New York

8 Jun - 23 Sep 2018

From dragons, unicorns, and other fabled beasts to inventive hybrid creations, artists in the Middle Ages filled the world around them with creatures of imagination. Their creations reflected a society and culture at once captivated and repelled by the idea of the monstrous. Drawing on the Morgan Library & Museum’s medieval collection as well as loans from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, this exhibition examines the complex social role of monsters in medieval Europe. It brings together approximately seventy works dating from the 9th century to the 16th, ranging from illuminated manuscripts and tapestry to metalwork and ivory.

The show explores three key themes. ‘Terrors’ explores how monsters enhanced the aura of those in power, whether rulers, knights, or saints. ‘Aliens’ reveals how marginalised groups in European societies – such as Jews, Muslims, women, the poor, and the disabled – were further alienated by being depicted as monstrous. The final section on ‘wonders’ considers the strange beauties and frightful anomalies such as dragons, unicorns, or giants that populated the medieval world. Find out more about the ‘Medieval Monsters’ exhibition from the Morgan Library’s website.  

Preview the exhibition below | See Apollo’s Picks of the Week here

Taming the Tarasque, from the Hours of Henry VIII

Taming the Tarasque, from the Hours of Henry VIII (c. 1500), Tours. Photo: Graham S. Haber

St. Firmin Holding His Head

St Firmin Holding His Head (c. 1225–75), Amiens. Photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tapestry with Wild Men and Moors

Tapestry with Wild Men and Moors (detail; c. 1440), Strasbourg. Photo © 2017 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Wild man, woman, and child, from Book of Hours

Wild man, woman, and child, from Book of Hours (c. 1490), Belgium.

The Whore of Babylon, from Morgan Apocalypse

The Whore of Babylon, from Morgan Apocalypse (c. 1255), London. Photo: Graham S. Haber

The Annunciation as an Allegorical Unicorn Hunt

The Annunciation as an Allegorical Unicorn Hunt (c. 1500), Germany. Photo: Janny Chiu, 2017

Event website