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Beautiful Monsters: Beasts and Fantastic Creatures in European Prints and Drawings (1450–1700)

The word “monster” comes from the Latin monstrum, meaning an anomaly in the natural order. Throughout the ages, artists have given shape to those abnormalities that populate collective imaginations. This exhibition showcases the unbridled creativity of Renaissance and Baroque artists, such as Albrecht Dürer, in bringing monsters to life in an artful manner.

Drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, a selection of engravings, etchings, woodcuts and drawings from the 15th through the 17th centuries highlights the different functions of monsters in the visual culture of early modern Europe. Whether they embody moral anxieties of the times or serve a decorative purpose, these fantastic beings elicit both terror and wonder. Through them, we can glimpse the power dynamics of religion and gender, and observe how art is capable of bringing a certain beauty even to the monstrous.

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