The Animalia theme of this year's San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show is by no means limited to the scientifically documented real world. Darwin may not agree but mankind's imagination is responsible for some of the most gorgeous and fascinating creatures to populate the world of the decorative arts. It is no coincidence that almost every culture, style or period has produced its own version of a demon, dragon, or other monstrous beast.
Whether these depictions were actual early efforts at documenting fossilized remains of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals, or symbolic expressions of evil (i.e. satan) or one's own heroism (i.e. the great warrior that slays the dragon) meant to strike fear into the hearts of enemies, we can all agree on the continuing fascination we have with these mythological beasts. Case in point: they remain a fixture in our world of entertainment to this day. Here are some examples from the past:
From Janice Paull:
One of a pair Mason's Ironstone China Alcove Vases, decorated in the Table & Flower Pot & Scroll patterns, circa 1815-20. Mason’s often used dragons and hydras – a giant snake-like monster, with its origins in Greek mythology - on their ware.
From Lang Antiques:
This gorgeous Art Nouveau enamel and freshwater pearl pin and/or pendant, circa 1900, shimmers with a sizable freshwater pearl (13.86 by 11.5 millimeters) closely guarded left and right by a pair of vigilant griffins (or dragons), and crowned - with a pearly crown.
From Peter Finer:
A Brescian engraved and gilt cuirass for use by the papal Swiss Guard, circa 1623-44. Look closely and you will notice that the bold symmetrical pattern of scrollwork streams from the mouth of a demon mask below the neck. This distinguishing grotesque mask and arabesques engraved onto the blued steel of this cuirass characterize a series of decorated half-armours made for the Papal Swiss guard in the first half of the seventeenth century.
From Patrick & Ondine Mestdagh:
A pair of wooden corbels (one illustrated) representing Baku (mythical tiger elephants), early Edo Period. Japanese, 17th century.
Provenance: Spink & Son, London, old collection.
The Baku, otherwise known as the dream eater, is a mythological being or spirit in Chinese and Japanese folklore which is said to devour nightmares. The Baku cannot be summoned without caution, however, as ancient legends say that if the Baku is not satisfied after consuming the nightmare, he may also devour one’s hopes and dreams..... Good night!:)