Animals & Other Beasts
Animals & Other Beasts brings together a wide variety of artworks, which include sculpture, manuscript illumination, ceramics, metalwork and stained glass. While animals and fantasy creatures often appear in the margins of books, buildings and domestic settings, they often take centre stage as well, decorating thrones, jewellery and clothing. The exhibition is divided into three sections – domestic, wild and fantasy animals. Included are an ox and donkey from one of the earliest known crib ensembles carved in Central Italy; an English folding almanac with a large illumination of the ‘Zodiac Man’ whose body is composed of beasts that symbolise the zodiac; and a Romanesque throne support from Southern Italy, which features two stylobate lions carrying an ornate base on their backs.
Interspersed throughout the catalogue are passages from ancient and medieval sources which describe animals – often in extremely amusing ways. These descriptions reveal that people in the Middle Ages often understood animals and their behaviour to symbolise human characteristics, moral lessons and otherworldly truths. In illustrating the age-old relationship between men and beasts, this exhibition also encourages people to think about our relationship with animals today – especially as their natural habitat disappears.
A part of the exhibition’s proceeds will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-UK) and we will be featuring information on the vitally important work that they do to ensure people and wildlife thrive together.