Illustrated Architecture Dictionary ...................... Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary

Grotesque (Grottesque)
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Art chracterized by an incongruous mixture of parts of humans and animals interwoven with plants.

Sculptured or painted ornaments involving fanciful distortions of human and animal forms, sometimes combined with plant motifs, esp. a variety of arabesque which has no counterpart in nature.

Decorations in antiquities like sphinxes, masks, or fantastic monsters which combined human and plant and animal forms in a free manner: winged females, mermaids, etc.

Strapwork is frequently found in grotesques.

Popular in the Renaissance, lincluding  Mannerism.

The word grotesque comes from the same Latin root as "Grotto", meaning a small cave or hollow.

The original meaning was restricted to an extravagant style of Ancient Roman decorative art rediscovered and then copied in Rome at the end of the 15th century[djuring the Renaissance]. The "caves" were in fact rooms and corridors of the Domus Aurea, the unfinished palace complex started by Nero after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, which had become overgrown and buried, until they were broken into again, mostly from above.

In art, grotesques are ornamental arrangements of arabesques with interlaced garlands and small and fantastic human and animal figures, usually set out in a symmetrical pattern around some form of architectural framework, though this may be very flimsy.

In architecture the term "grotesque" means a carved stone figure. Grotesques are often confused with gargoyles, but the distinction is that gargoyles are figures that contain a water spout through the mouth, while grotesques do not.

Less used in the Baroque, the style was revived again in Neo-Classicism, when the lost spaciousness would be restored.

Grotesque ornament received a further impetus from new discoveries of original Roman frescoes and stucchi at Pompeii and the other buried sites round Mount Vesuvius from the middle of the century. It continued in use, becoming increasingly heavy, in the Empire Style and then in the Victorian period, when designs often became as densely packed as in 16th century engravings, and the elegance and fancy of the style tended to be lost.

- Wikipedia (March 2011)


Examples from Buffalo:

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Photos and their arrangement © 2006 Chuck LaChiusa
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