A Liverpool Bestiary
Groups of esteemed practitioners were asked to respond the ancient theme of a Bestiary and produce a limited edition print as part of a suite of work. Over 50 artists from across the world have contributed to this and The Liverpool Bestiary presentation will allow you to see these prints first hand alongside some relevant pieces from the Galleries collection. A Bestiary is a medieval collection of stories providing physical and allegorical descriptions of real or imaginary animals along with an interpretation of the moral significance each animal was thought to embody.
Although it dealt with the natural world it was never meant to be a scientific text. Some observations may be quite accurate but they are given the same weight as totally fabulous accounts. A great deal of its charm comes from the humour and imagination of the illustrations, painted partly for pleasure but justified as a didactic tool ‘to improve the minds of ordinary people, in such a way that the soul will at least perceive physically things which it has difficulty grasping mentally: that what they have difficulty comprehending with their ears, they will perceive with their eyes’ In all cultures, there have been stories created about creatures. Some of these creatures have been familiar animals like foxes and bears, but often given characteristics that they don’t exhibit in nature (like the ability to talk, perform music, or engage in everyday commerce with humans). But whether the beasts of stories are familiar or exotic, these creations usually were symbolic of human beings or of human traits. Perhaps as a metaphor or as a means to clearly explain a behavior to the listener or reader, the beast served as a tool.
As a result, the way that a beast or monster is depicted (both in illustration and in description) can be revealing of both the people who created the stories and the artists who interpret them and are a reflection of their culture.