Deformed beauty and yet a beautiful deformity  

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"What is that ridiculous monstrosity doing, an amazing kind of deformed beauty and yet a beautiful deformity? What are the filthy apes doing there? The fierce lions? The monstrous centaurs? The creatures, part man and part beast?" (tr. Conrad Rudolph) is a dictum by Bernard of Clairvaux from "Apologia ad Guillelmum" writing on monastic art.

By the diatribes of Bernard we can see what materials were extant in the twelfth century for a study of worship-symbols and of the grotesque, though he ignores any possible meaning they may have. He says, “Sometimes you may see many bodies under one head; at other times, many heads to one body; here is seen the tail of a serpent attached to the body of a quadruped; there the head of a quadruped on the body of a fish. In another place appears an animal, the fore half of which represents a horse, and the hinder portion a goat. Elsewhere you have a horned animal with the hinder parts of a horse; indeed there appears everywhere so multifarious and so wonderful a variety of diverse forms that one is more apt to con over the sculptures than to study the scriptures, to occupy the whole day in wondering at these than in meditating upon God’s law.” --The Grotesque in Church Art

Latin original

"Quid facit illa ridicula monstruositas, mira quaedam deformis formositas ac formosa deformitas? Quid ibi immundae simiae? Quid Feri leones? Quid monstruosi centauri? Quid semihomines? Quid maculosae tigrides? Quid milites pugnantes? Quid venatores tubicinantes?"

Dutch translation

"Wat moet die belachelijke monstrositeit, die gedeformeerde vormenpracht, die prachtig vormgegeven deformatie? Waarom toch die vieze apen? Die woeste leeuwen? Die monsterlijke centauren? Die halfmensen? Die gevlekte tijgers?[1]

See also

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