You will find here some information about a style that everybody knows even if they can’t name it.
In the mist of time
Wherever you travel in Italy, you’ll see drawings, paintings and frescoes made in grotesque style. The Romans enjoyed this style some samples of which can be seen when you visit the ruins of the ancient Vesuvian cities. For instance, in the old city of Stabies (now, Castellammare di Stabia), a very well hidden place, or in Oplontis where I have taken these two pictures.
What is the Grotesque Style ?
The grotesque style mixes different kingdoms - vegetable, animal, human – which means that you can often see fantastic figures like a being with a swan neck on a woman’s breast. The female sphinx – frequent in ornemental architecture – is one of these figures. As you can see on the following pictures, you wouldn’t necessarily enjoy them. Have a look at these weird hence graceful figures.
A touch of history about the grotesque
The grotesque style has been forgotten and lost during the Middle Ages and rediscovered around the 15th century, when people randomly found the cellars of the Domus Aurea. As they had passed through a tunnel underground, they firstly thought that it was a cave (« grotta » in Italian). That’s the reason why they called this style « grotesca ».
Designers immediately came and copied all the patterns that spread all over Europe. This way, grotesque can be seen wherever we travel, from Saint-Petersbourg to Paris, Vienna, Lecce, Brussels, in short, everywhere.
Actually, the grotesque is a universal style that can be adapted in different sets of alternatives depending on your sensitivity. It can be classical as well as translated according to a more contemporary vision. That’s exactly what designers do : they recycle existing patterns…. like this one from Arte International‘s catalogue.
By the way, have a look at Arte International‘s awsome website.
As for me, I enjoy this subtle style. The main place where I have used it in wallpainting is the hall of my own house. My inspiration comes from Sabbioneta’s palace. Have a look at these paintings.
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