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Since at least the 18th century (in French and German as well as English), grotesque has come to be used as a general adjective for the strange, mysterious, magnificent, fantastic, hideous, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as
Halloween Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of "All Hallows' evening"), less commonly known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a celebration observed in many countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian 250p ...

Halloween
masks. In art, performance, and literature, however, ''grotesque'' may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as sympathetic
pity Pity is a Sympathy, sympathetic sorrow (emotion), sorrow evoked by the suffering of others, and is used in a comparable sense to ''compassion'', ''condolence'' or ''empathy'' - the word deriving from the Latin ''Pietas, pietās'' (etymon also o ...

pity
. The English word first appears in the 1560s as a noun borrowed from French, and comes originally from the Italian ''grottesca'' (literally "of a cave" from the Italian ''grotta'', 'cave'; see
grotto A grotto is a natural or artificial cave A cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the weathering Weathering is the breaking down of rocks, soil Soil ( ...

grotto
), an extravagant style of ancient Roman decorative art rediscovered at Rome at the end of the fifteenth century and subsequently imitated. The word was first used of paintings found on the walls of basements of ruins in Rome that were called at that time ''le Grotte'' ('the caves'). These 'caves' were in fact rooms and corridors of the
Domus Aurea The Domus Aurea (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...
, the unfinished palace complex started by
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth emperor of Rome. He was Adoption in Ancient Rome, adopted by the Roman emperor Claudius at the age of 13 and s ...

Nero
after the
Great Fire of Rome The Great Fire of Rome ( la, incendium magnum Romae), was an urban fire that occurred in July AD 64. The fire began in the merchant shops around Rome's chariot stadium, Circus Maximus The Circus Maximus (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a cla ...
in CE 64, which had become overgrown and buried, until they were broken into again, mostly from above. Spreading from Italian to the other European languages, the term was long used largely interchangeably with
arabesque The arabesque is a form of artistic decoration consisting of "surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils" or plain lines, often combined with other elements. Another definition is "Folia ...
and moresque for types of decorative patterns using curving foliage elements. Rémi Astruc has argued that although there is an immense variety of motifs and figures, the three main tropes of the grotesque are doubleness,
hybridityHybridity, in its most basic sense, refers to mixture. The term originates from biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecu ...
and metamorphosis. Beyond the current understanding of the grotesque as an aesthetic category, he demonstrated how the grotesque functions as a fundamental existential experience. Moreover, Astruc identifies the grotesque as a crucial, and potentially universal, anthropological device that societies have used to conceptualize alterity and change.


History


Early examples in Roman ornament

In art, grotesques are ornamental arrangements of
arabesque The arabesque is a form of artistic decoration consisting of "surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils" or plain lines, often combined with other elements. Another definition is "Folia ...
s with interlaced garlands and small and fantastic human and animal figures, usually set out in a
symmetrical Symmetry (from Greek συμμετρία ''symmetria'' "agreement in dimensions, due proportion, arrangement") in everyday language refers to a sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance. In mathematics, "symmetry" has a more pre ...

symmetrical
pattern around some form of architectural framework, though this may be very flimsy. Such designs were fashionable in ancient
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
, especially as fresco wall decoration and floor mosaic. Stylized versions, common in Imperial Roman decoration, were decried by
Vitruvius Vitruvius (; c. 80–70 BC – after c. 15 BC) was a Roman architect and engineer during the 1st century BC, known for his multi-volume work entitled ''De architectura (''On architecture'', published as ''Ten Books on Architecture'') i ...

Vitruvius
(c. 30 BC) who, in dismissing them as meaningless and illogical, offered the following description:
For example, reeds are substituted for columns, fluted appendages with curly leaves and volutes take the place of pediments, candelabra support representations of shrines, and on top of their roofs grow slender stalks and volutes with human figures senselessly seated upon them.
Emperor
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth emperor of Rome. He was Adoption in Ancient Rome, adopted by the Roman emperor Claudius at the age of 13 and s ...

Nero
's palace in Rome, the
Domus Aurea The Domus Aurea (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...
, was rediscovered by chance in the late 15th century, buried in fifteen hundred years of land fill. Access into the palace's remains was from above, requiring visitors to be lowered into it using ropes as in a cave, or ''
grotte
grotte
'' in Italian. The palace's wall decorations in
fresco Fresco (plural ''frescos'' or ''frescoes'') is a technique of Mural, mural painting executed upon freshly laid ("wet") lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the ...

fresco
and delicate
stucco Stucco or render is a construction Construction is a general term meaning the and to form , , or ,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. and 1.c. ''Oxford English Dictionary'' Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0) Oxford University Press 2009 and c ...
were a revelation.


Etymology in Renaissance

The first appearance of the word ''grottesche'' appears in a contract of 1502 for the
Piccolomini Library
Piccolomini Library
attached to the
duomo ''Duomo'' (, ) is an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional ...

duomo
of
Siena Siena ( , ; in English sometimes spelled Sienna; lat, Sena Iulia) is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The S ...

Siena
. They were introduced by
Raphael Sanzio Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (; March 28 or April 6, 1483April 6, 1520), known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. List of works by Raphael, His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, a ...
and his team of decorative painters, who developed ''grottesche'' into a complete system of ornament in the
Loggias File:Palladio Villa Godi.jpg, Villa Godi by Palladio. The portico is the focal point in the center with loggias used at each side of the structure as a corridor. A loggia ( , usually , ) is an architectural feature which is a covered exterior g ...

Loggias
that are part of the series of Raphael's Rooms in the
Vatican Palace The Apostolic Palace ( la, Palatium Apostolicum; it, Palazzo Apostolico) is the official residence of the pope, the head of the Catholic Church, located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Papal Palace, the Palace of the Vatican and the Va ...

Vatican Palace
, Rome. "The decorations astonished and charmed a generation of artists that was familiar with the grammar of the
classical orders An order in architecture File:Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted).jpg, upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte ...
but had not guessed till then that in their private houses the Romans had often disregarded those rules and had adopted instead a more fanciful and informal style that was all lightness, elegance and grace." In these grotesque decorations a tablet or candelabrum might provide a focus; frames were extended into scrolls that formed part of the surrounding designs as a kind of scaffold, as Peter Ward-Jackson noted. Light scrolling grotesques could be ordered by confining them within the framing of a pilaster to give them more structure.
Giovanni da Udine image:Le Vite - Giovanni da Udine.jpg, 150px, Portrait in Vasari's Vite Giovanni Nanni, also Giovanni de' Ricamatori, better known as Giovanni da Udine (1487–1564), was an Italy, Italian painter and architect born in Udine. A painter also named ' ...
took up the theme of grotesques in decorating the
Villa Madama Villa Madama is a Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. was a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted ...
, the most influential of the new Roman villas. In the 16th century, such artistic license and irrationality was controversial matter.
Francisco de Holanda Francisco de Holanda (originally ''Francisco d'Olanda;'' 6 September 1517 – 19 June 1585) was a Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** ...

Francisco de Holanda
puts a defense in the mouth of
Michelangelo Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (; 6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564), known simply as Michelangelo (), was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance In art history, the High Renaissance was ...

Michelangelo
in his third dialogue of ''Da Pintura Antiga'', 1548:
"this insatiable desire of man sometimes prefers to an ordinary building, with its pillars and doors, one falsely constructed in grotesque style, with pillars formed of children growing out of stalks of flowers, with
architrave In classical architecture, an architrave (; from it, architrave "chief beam", also called an epistyle; from Ancient Greek, Greek ἐπίστυλον ''epistylon'' "door frame") is the lintel (architecture), lintel or beam (structure), beam t ...

architrave
s and
cornice In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Arch ...
s of branches of myrtle and doorways of reeds and other things, all seeming impossible and contrary to reason, yet it may be really great work if it is performed by a skillful artist."


Mannerism

The delight of
Mannerist Mannerism, also known as Late Renaissance, is a style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520, spreading by about 1530 and lasting until about the end of the 16th century in Italy, when the Ba ...
artists and their patrons in arcane iconographic programs available only to the erudite could be embodied in schemes of ''grottesche'',
Andrea Alciato Andrea Alciato (8 May 149212 January 1550), commonly known as Alciati (Andreas Alciatus), was an Italian jurist A jurist is a person with expert knowledge of law; someone who analyses and comments on law. This person is usually a specialist ...
's ''
Emblemata Title page of the book ''Emblematum liber'' by Andrea Alciato (1531) Usually known simply as the ''Emblemata'', the first emblem book appeared in Augsburg (Germany) in 1531 under the title ''Viri Clarissimi D. Andreae Alciati Iurisconsultiss. Med ...

Emblemata
'' (1522) offered ready-made iconographic shorthand for vignettes. More familiar material for grotesques could be drawn from Ovid's ''Metamorphoses''. The Vatican loggias, a
loggia A loggia ( , usually , ) is an architectural Architecture (Latin ''architectura ''Architectura: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Baukunst'' is a biannual peer-reviewed Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people ...

loggia
corridor space in the
Apostolic Palace The Apostolic Palace ( la, Palatium Apostolicum; it, Palazzo Apostolico) is the official residence An official residence is the House, residence of nation's head of state, head of government, governor, Clergy, religious leader, leaders of in ...

Apostolic Palace
open to the elements on one side, were decorated around 1519 by
Raphael Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (; March 28 or April 6, 1483April 6, 1520), known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect An architect is a person who plans, designs and oversees the construction of buildings. To practice architecture ...

Raphael
s's large team of artists, with
Giovanni da Udine image:Le Vite - Giovanni da Udine.jpg, 150px, Portrait in Vasari's Vite Giovanni Nanni, also Giovanni de' Ricamatori, better known as Giovanni da Udine (1487–1564), was an Italy, Italian painter and architect born in Udine. A painter also named ' ...
the main hand involved. Because of the relative unimportance of the space, and a desire to copy the Domus Aurea style, no large paintings were used, and the surfaces were mostly covered with grotesque designs on a white background, with paintings imitating sculptures in niches, and small figurative subjects in a revival of Ancient Roman style. This large array provided a repertoire of elements that were the basis for later artists across Europe.Wilson, 152 In Michelangelo's
Medici Chapel The Medici Chapels (''Cappelle medicee'') are two structures at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and built as extensions to Brunelleschi's 15th-century church, with the purpose of celebrating t ...
Giovanni da Udine composed during 1532-33 "most beautiful sprays of foliage, rosettes and other ornaments in stucco and gold" in the coffers and "sprays of foliage, birds, masks and figures", with a result that did not please Pope Clement VII Medici, however, nor
Giorgio Vasari Giorgio Vasari (, also , ; 30 July 1511 – 27 June 1574) was an Italian painter, architect, engineer, writer, and historian, best known for his ''Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects ''The Lives of the Most Excelle ...

Giorgio Vasari
, who whitewashed the grottesche decor in 1556.
Counter Reformation The Counter-Reformation (), also called the Catholic Reformation () or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protes ...
writers on the arts, notably Cardinal
Gabriele Paleotti Gabriele Paleotti (4 October 1522 – 22 July 1597) was an Italian cardinal Cardinal or The Cardinal may refer to: Christianity * Cardinal (Catholic Church), a senior official of the Catholic Church * Cardinal (Church of England), two members ...

Gabriele Paleotti
, bishop of Bologna, turned upon ''grottesche'' with a righteous vengeance. Vasari, echoing Vitruvius, described the style as follows:
"Grotesques are a type of extremely licentious and absurd painting done by the ancients ... without any logic, so that a weight is attached to a thin thread which could not support it, a horse is given legs made of leaves, a man has crane's legs, with countless other impossible absurdities; and the bizarrer the painter's imagination, the higher he was rated".
Vasari recorded that Francesco Ubertini, called "Bacchiacca", delighted in inventing ''grotteschi'', and (about 1545) painted for Duke
Cosimo de' Medici Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici (27 September 1389 – 1 August 1464) was an Italian banker and politician who established the Medici family The House of Medici ( , ) was an Italian banking family and political dynasty that first began to gathe ...
a ''
studiolo A cabinet (also known by other terms) was a private room in the house A house is a single-unit residential building, which may range in complexity from a rudimentary hut to a complex structure of wood, masonry, concrete or other material, o ...

studiolo
'' in a mezzanine at the
Palazzo Vecchio The Palazzo Vecchio ( "Old Palace") is the City hall, town hall of Florence, Italy. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria, which holds a copy of Michelangelo's ''David (Michelangelo), David'' statue, and the gallery of statues in the adjacent ...

Palazzo Vecchio
"full of animals and rare plants". Other 16th-century writers on ''grottesche'' included
Daniele Barbaro Daniele Matteo Alvise Barbaro (also Barbarus) (8 February 1514 – 13 April 1570) was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the ...

Daniele Barbaro
,
Pirro Ligorio Pirro Ligorio (October 30, 1583) was an Italian architect, painter, antiquarian, and garden designer during the Renaissance period. He worked as the Vatican's Papal Architect under Popes Pope Paul IV, Paul IV and Pope Pius IV, Pius IV, designed th ...

Pirro Ligorio
and
Gian Paolo Lomazzo Gian Paolo Lomazzo (26 April 1538 – 27 January 1592; his first name is sometimes also given as "Giovan" or "Giovanni") was an Italians, Italian painter, best remembered for his writings on art theory, belonging to the second generation that ...
.


Engravings, woodwork, book illustration, decorations

In the meantime, through the medium of
engraving Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin Burin may refer to: Tools * Burin (engraving), a tool with a narrow sharp face at the tip used for engraving and other pu ...

engraving
s the grotesque mode of surface ornament passed into the European artistic repertory of the 16th century, from Spain to Poland. A classic suite was that attributed to Enea Vico, published in 1540-41 under an evocative explanatory title, ''Leviores et extemporaneae picturae quas grotteschas vulgo vocant'', "Light and extemporaneous pictures that are vulgarly called grotesques". Later
Mannerist Mannerism, also known as Late Renaissance, is a style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520, spreading by about 1530 and lasting until about the end of the 16th century in Italy, when the Ba ...
versions, especially in engraving, tended to lose that initial lightness and be much more densely filled than the airy well-spaced style used by the Romans and Raphael. Soon ''grottesche'' appeared in
marquetry Marquetry (also spelled as marqueterie; from the French ''marqueter'', to variegate) is the art and craft A craft or trade is a pastime or an occupation that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work. In a historical se ...
(fine woodwork), in
maiolica Maiolica is tin-glazed pottery Tin-glazed pottery is earthenware covered in lead glaze with added tin oxide which is white, shiny and opaque (see tin-glazing for the chemistry); usually this provides a background for brightly painted de ...

maiolica
produced above all at
Urbino Urbino ( ; ; Romagnol: ''Urbìn'') is a walled city in the Marche Marche ( , ) is one of the twenty regions of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consis ...

Urbino
from the late 1520s, then in book illustration and in other decorative uses. At
Fontainebleau Fontainebleau (; ) is a commune in France, commune in the aire urbaine, metropolitan area of Paris, France. It is located south-southeast of the Kilometre Zero, centre of Paris. Fontainebleau is a Subprefectures in France, sub-prefecture of the ...

Fontainebleau
Rosso Fiorentino Giovanni Battista di Jacopo (8 March 1495 in Gregorian style, or 1494 according to the calculation of times in Florence where the year began on 25 March – 14 November 1540), known as Rosso Fiorentino (meaning "Red Florentine" in Italian), o ...
and his team enriched the vocabulary of grotesques by combining them with the decorative form of
strapwork In the history of art and design, strapwork is the use of stylised representations in ornament of ribbon-like forms. These may loosely imitate leather straps, parchment or metal cut into elaborate shapes, with piercings, and often interwoven in ...
, the portrayal of leather straps in plaster or wood moldings, which forms an element in grotesques.


From Baroque to Victorian era

In the 17th and 18th centuries the grotesque encompasses a wide field of
teratology Teratology is the study of abnormalities of physiological development in all organisms including plants during the entire life span. It is a sub-discipline in medical genetics which focuses on the classification of congenital abnormalities is Dy ...
(science of monsters) and artistic experimentation. The monstrous, for instance, often occurs as the notion of ''play''. The sportiveness of the grotesque category can be seen in the notion of the preternatural category of the ''lusus naturae'', in natural history writings and in cabinets of curiosities. The last vestiges of romance, such as the marvellous also provide opportunities for the presentation of the grotesque in, for instance, operatic spectacle. The mixed form of the novel was commonly described as grotesque - see for instance Fielding's "comic epic poem in prose". (''Joseph Andrews'' and ''Tom Jones'') Grotesque ornament received a further impetus from new discoveries of original Roman frescoes and stucchi at
Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune The (; plural: ) is a of , roughly equivalent to a or . Importance and function The provides essential public services: of births and deaths, , and maintenan ...

Pompeii
and the other buried sites round
Mount Vesuvius Mount Vesuvius ( ; it, Vesuvio ; nap, 'O Vesuvio , also or ; la, Vesuvius , also , or ) is a somma A somma volcano (also known as a sommian) is a volcano, volcanic caldera that has been partially filled by a new central volcanic cone ...
from the middle of the century. It continued in use, becoming increasingly heavy, in the
Empire Style The Empire style (, ''style Empire'') is an early-nineteenth-century design A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or system or for the implementation of an activity or process, or the result of that plan or spec ...
and then in the
Victorian Victorian or Victorians may refer to: 19th century * Victorian era, British history during Queen Victoria's 19th-century reign ** Victorian architecture ** Victorian house ** Victorian decorative arts ** Victorian fashion ** Victorian literature ...
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.


Extensions of the term in art

Artists began to give the tiny faces of the figures in grotesque decorations strange
caricature A caricature is a rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way through sketching, pencil strokes, or through other artistic drawings (compare to: cartoon A cartoon is a type of illustration that is ty ...

caricature
d expressions, in a direct continuation of the medieval traditions of the
drolleriesImage:Piers plowman drolleries.gif, Page from the 14th-century Luttrell Psalter, showing a drollery on the right margin. A drollerie, often also called a grotesque, from French language, is a small decorative image in the Margin (typography), margi ...
in the border decorations or initials in
illuminated manuscript An illuminated manuscript is a formally prepared document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of nonfiction, non-fictional, as well as fictional, con ...
s. From this the term began to be applied to larger caricatures, such as those of
Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 14522 May 1519) was an Italian of the who was active as a painter, , engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor and architect. While his fame initially rested on his achievements as a painter, he als ...

Leonardo da Vinci
, and the modern sense began to develop. It is first recorded in English in 1646 from Sir
Thomas Browne Sir Thomas Browne (; 19 October 1605 – 19 October 1682) was an English polymath and author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including science and medicine, religion and the esoteric. His writings display a ...
:"In nature there are no grotesques". By extension backwards in time, the term became also used for the medieval originals, and in modern terminology medieval drolleries, half-human thumbnail vignettes drawn in the margins, and carved figures on buildings (that are not also waterspouts, and so
gargoyle In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Arch ...

gargoyle
s) are also called "grotesques". A boom in the production of works of art in the grotesque genre characterized the period 1920–1933 of
German art German art has a long and distinguished tradition in the visual arts, from the earliest known work of figurative art to its current output of contemporary art. Germany has only been united into a single state since the 19th century, and defining ...
. In contemporary illustration art, the "grotesque" figures, in the ordinary conversational sense, commonly appear in the genre ''grotesque art'', also known as
fantastic art Fantastic art is a broad and loosely defined art genre. It is not restricted to a specific school of artists, geographical location or historical period. It can be characterised by subject matter – which portrays non-realistic, mystical, mythic ...
.


In literature

One of the first uses of the term grotesque to denote a literary genre is in . The Grotesque is often linked with
satire Satire is a of the , , and s, usually in the form of and less frequently , in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, often with the intent of shaming or exposing the perceived flaws of individuals, corpora ...
and
tragicomedy Tragicomedy is a literary genre A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique A narrative technique (known for literary fiction Literary fiction is a term used in the book-trade to d ...
.Clark (1991
pp. 20–1
/ref> It is an effective artistic means to convey grief and pain to the audience, and for this has been labeled by
Thomas Mann Paul Thomas Mann ( , ; ; 6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature ) , image = Nobel Prize.png , caption = , awarded_ ...
as the "genuine antibourgeois style". Some of the earliest written texts describe grotesque happenings and monstrous creatures. The literature of Myth has been a rich source of monsters; from the one-eyed Cyclops (to cite one example) from Hesiod's ''Theogony'' to Homer's Polyphemus in the ''Odyssey''. Ovid's ''Metamorphoses'' is another rich source for grotesque transformations and hybrid creatures of myth. Horace's ''Art of Poetry'' also provides a formal introduction classical values and to the dangers of grotesque or mixed form. Indeed, the departure from classical models of order, reason, harmony, balance and form opens up the risk of entry into grotesque worlds. Accordingly, British literature abounds with native grotesquerie, from the strange worlds of Spenser's allegory in ''The Faerie Queene'', to the tragi-comic modes of 16th-century drama. (Grotesque comic elements can be found in major works such as ''King Lear''.) Literary works of ''mixed'' genre are occasionally termed grotesque, as are "low" or non-literary genres such as pantomime and farce. Gothic writings often have grotesque components in terms of character, style and location. In other cases, the environment described may be grotesque - whether urban (
Charles Dickens Charles John Huffam Dickens (; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian e ...

Charles Dickens
), or the literature of the American south which has sometimes been termed "
Southern Gothic Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction Gothic fiction, sometimes called Gothic horror in the 20th century, is a genre of literature and film that covers horror, death and at times romance. It is said to derive from the English auth ...
". Sometimes the grotesque in literature has been explored in terms of social and cultural formations such as the carnival(-esque) in
François Rabelais François Rabelais ( , , ; born between 1483 and 1494; died 1553) was a French Renaissance writer, physician, Renaissance humanism, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholars in the Renaissance, Greek scholar. He is primarily known as a wr ...
and
Mikhail Bakhtin Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin ( ; rus, Михаи́л Миха́йлович Бахти́н, , mʲɪxɐˈil mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪdʑ bɐxˈtʲin; – 7 March 1975) was a Russian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The ...
. Terry Castle has written on the relationship between metamorphosis, literary writings and masquerade. Another major source of the grotesque is in satirical writings of the 18th century.
Jonathan Swift Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was an Anglo-Irish Anglo-Irish () is a term which was more commonly used in the 19th and early 20th centuries to identify an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of ...
's ''
Gulliver's Travels ''Gulliver's Travels'', or ''Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships'' is a 1726 prose satire Satire is a of the , , and s, usually in ...

Gulliver's Travels
'' provides a variety of approaches to grotesque representation. In poetry, the works of
Alexander Pope Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) is seen as one of the greatest English poets and the foremost poet of the early 18th century. He is best known for satirical and discursive poetry, including ''The Rape of the Lock ''The Rape o ...

Alexander Pope
provide many examples of the grotesque. In fiction, characters are usually considered ''grotesque'' if they induce both empathy and disgust. (A character who inspires disgust alone is simply a villain or a
monster A monster is a type of fictional creature found in horror Horror may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Genres *Horror fiction, a genre of fiction **Japanese horror, Japanese horror fiction **Korean horror, Korean horror fiction *Horr ...

monster
.) Obvious examples would include the physically deformed and the mentally deficient, but people with cringe-worthy social traits are also included. The reader becomes piqued by the grotesque's positive side, and continues reading to see if the character can conquer their darker side. In Shakespeare's ''
The Tempest ''The Tempest'' is a Shakespeare's plays, play by English playwright William Shakespeare, probably written in 1610–1611, and thought to be one of the last plays that Shakespeare wrote alone. After the first scene, which takes place on a ship ...
'', the figure of
Caliban Caliban ( ), son of the witch Sycorax, is an important character in William Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in ...
has inspired more nuanced reactions than simple scorn and disgust. Also, in J. R. R. Tolkien's ''
The Lord of the Rings ''The Lord of the Rings'' is an Epic (genre), epic high-fantasy novel by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. Set in Middle-earth, intended to be Earth at some distant time in the past, the story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 ...
'', the character of Gollum may be considered to have both disgusting and empathetic qualities, which fit him into the grotesque template.
Victor Hugo Victor-Marie Hugo (; 26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and dramatist of the Romantic movement Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellect ...

Victor Hugo
's '''' is one of the most celebrated grotesques in literature. Dr. Frankenstein's monster can also be considered a grotesque, as well as the title character, Erik in ''
The Phantom of the Opera ''The Phantom of the Opera'' (French: ''Le Fantôme de l'Opéra''), is a novel by French author Gaston Leroux. It was first published as a serial in ''Le Gaulois'' from 23 September 1909 to 8 January 1910, and was released in volume form in late ...

The Phantom of the Opera
'' and the Beast in
Beauty and the Beast ''Beauty and the Beast'' (french: La Belle et la Bête) is a fairy tale A fairy tale, fairytale, wonder tale, magic tale, fairy story or ''Märchen'' is an instance of a folklore genre that takes the form of a short story A short story is ...

Beauty and the Beast
. Other instances of the romantic grotesque are also to be found in
Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe (; born Edgar Poe; January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, poet, editor, and literary criticism, literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and ...

Edgar Allan Poe
, E.T.A. Hoffmann, in ''
Sturm und Drang ''Sturm und Drang'' (, ; literally "storm and drive", though usually translated as "storm and stress") was a proto- Romantic movement in German literature and music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition t ...
'' literature or in Sterne's ''
Tristram ShandyTristram may refer to: Literature * the title character of ''The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman'', a novel by Laurence Sterne * the title character of ''Tristram of Lyonesse'', an epic poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne *"Tristram ...
''. The romantic grotesque is far more terrible and sombre than the medieval grotesque, which celebrated laughter and fertility. It is at this point that a grotesque creature such as Frankenstein's monster (in Mary Shelley's novel published in 1818) begins to be presented more sympathetically as the outsider who is the victim of society. But the novel also makes the issue of sympathy problematic in an unkind society. This means that society becomes the generator of the grotesque, by a process of alienation. In fact, the grotesque monster in ''Frankenstein'' tends to be described as 'the creature.' The grotesque received a new shape with ''
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' (commonly shortened to ''Alice in Wonderland'') is an 1865 English novel, novel by English author Lewis Carroll (the pseudonym of Charles Dodgson). It tells of a young girl named Alice (Alice's Adventures i ...
'' by
Lewis Carroll Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (; 27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children's fiction, notably ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' and its sequel ''Through the Looking-Glass'' ...

Lewis Carroll
, when a girl meets fantastic grotesque figures in her fantasy world. Carroll manages to make the figures seem less frightful and fit for
children's literature Children's literature or juvenile literature includes stories, books, magazines, and poems that are created for children. Modern children's literature is classified in two different ways: genre or the intended age of the reader. Children's ...

children's literature
, but still utterly strange. Another comic grotesque writer who played on the relationship between sense and nonsense was
Edward Lear Edward Lear (12 May 1812 – 29 January 1888) was an English artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, now known mostly for his literary nonsense Literary nonsense (or nonsense literature) is a broad categorization of literature Litera ...

Edward Lear
. Humorous, or festive nonsense of this kind has its roots in the seventeenth century traditions of fustian, bombastic and satirical writing. During the nineteenth-century category of grotesque body was increasingly displaced by the notion of congenital deformity or medical anomaly. Building on this context, the grotesque begins to be understood more in terms as deformity and disability, especially after the First World War, 1914–18. In these terms, the art historian Leah Dickerman has argued that 'The sight of horrendously shattered bodies of veterans returned to the home front became commonplace. The accompanying growth in the prosthetic industry struck contemporaries as creating a race of half-mechanical men and became an important theme in dadaist work.' The poetry of
Wilfred Owen Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918) was an English poet and soldier. He was one of the leading poets of the First World War World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a gl ...

Wilfred Owen
displays a poetic and realistic sense of the grotesque horror of war and the human cost of brutal conflict. Poems such as 'Spring Offensive' and 'Greater Love' combined images of beauty with shocking brutality and violence in order to produce a sense of the grotesque clash of opposites. In a similar fashion, Ernst Friedrich (1894–1967), founder of the Berlin Peace Museum, an anarchist and a pacifist, was the author of ''War Against War'' (1924) which used grotesque photographs of mutilated victims of the First World War in order to campaign for peace.
Southern Gothic Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction Gothic fiction, sometimes called Gothic horror in the 20th century, is a genre of literature and film that covers horror, death and at times romance. It is said to derive from the English auth ...
is a genre frequently identified with grotesques and
William Faulkner William Cuthbert Faulkner (; September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was an American writer known for his novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County Yoknapatawpha County () is a List of fictional counties, fictional M ...

William Faulkner
is often cited as the ringmaster.
Flannery O'Connor Mary Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925August 3, 1964) was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist. She wrote two novels and thirty-two short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern literature, ...
wrote, "Whenever I'm asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one" ("Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction", 1960). In O'Connor's often-anthologized
short story A short story is a piece of prose Prose is a form of written or spoken language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...
" A Good Man Is Hard to Find", the Misfit, a serial killer, is clearly a maimed soul, utterly callous to human life but driven to seek the truth. The less obvious grotesque is the polite, doting grandmother who is unaware of her own astonishing selfishness. Another oft-cited example of the grotesque from O'Connor's work is her short story entitled "A Temple Of The Holy Ghost". The American novelist, Raymond Kennedy is another author associated with the literary tradition of the grotesque.


Contemporary writers

Contemporary writers of literary grotesque fiction include
Ian McEwan Ian Russell McEwan, (born 21 June 1948) is an English novelist A novelist is an author An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be ...
, Katherine Dunn,
Alasdair Gray Alasdair James Gray (28 December 1934 – 29 December 2019) was a Scottish writer and artist. His first novel, ''Lanark Lanark (; gd, Lannraig ; sco, Lanrik) is a town in the central belt of Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Al ...
,
Angela Carter Angela Olive Pearce (formerly Carter, Stalker; 7 May 1940 – 16 February 1992), who published under the name Angela Carter, was an English novelist, short story writer, poet, and journalist, known for her feminist Feminism is a range ...
,
Jeanette Winterson Jeanette Winterson (born 27 August 1959) is an English writer, who became famous with her first book, '' Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit'', a Autobiographical novel, semi-autobiographical novel about a sensitive teenage girl rebelling against c ...
,
Umberto Eco Umberto Eco (5 January 1932 – 19 February 2016) was an Italian medievalistMedieval studies is the academic interdisciplinary study of the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th t ...
, Patrick McGrath,
Natsuo Kirino (born October 7, 1951, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture) is the pen name of Mariko Hashioka, a Japanese people, Japanese novelist and a leading figure in the recent boom of female writers of Japanese detective fiction. Biograph ...
, Paul Tremblay, Matt Bell (author), Matt Bell, Chuck Palahniuk, Brian Evenson, Caleb J. Ross (who writes domestic grotesque fiction), Richard Thomas (author), Richard Thomas and many authors who write in the bizarro fiction, bizarro genre of fiction. In 1929, G.L Van Roosbroeck wrote a book called "GROTESQUES" (illustrations by J. Matulka) published by The Williamsport Printing and Binding Co., Williamsport, PA. It is a collection of 6 stories and 3 fables for the children of tomorrow.


Pop culture

Other contemporary writers who have explored the grotesque in pop-culture ar
John Docker
in the context of postmodernism
Cintra Wilson
who analyzes celebrity; an
Francis Sanzaro
who discusses its relation to childbirth and obscenity.


Theatre of the Grotesque

The term Theatre of the Grotesque refers to an anti-Naturalism (theatre), naturalistic school of Italian dramatists, writing in the 1910s and 1920s, who are often seen as precursors of the Theatre of the Absurd. Characterized by ironic and macabre themes of daily life in the World War 1 era. Theatre of the Grotesque was named after the play 'The Mask and the Face' by Luigi Chiarelli, which was described as 'a grotesque in three acts.' Friedrich Dürrenmatt is a major author of contemporary grotesque comedy plays.


In architecture

In architecture the term "grotesque" means a carved stone figure. Grotesques are often confused with
gargoyle In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Arch ...

gargoyle
s, but the distinction is that gargoyles are figures that contain a water spout through the mouth, while grotesques do not. Without a water spout, this type of sculpture is also known as a chimera when it depicts fantastical creatures. In the Middle Ages, the term ''babewyn'' was used to refer to both gargoyles and grotesques. This word is derived from the Italian language, Italian word ''babbuino'', which means "baboon".


In typography

The word "grotesque", or "Grotesk" in German, is also frequently used as a synonym for sans-serif in typography. At other times, it is used (along with "neo-grotesque", "humanist", "Lineal typeface#Lineal, lineal", and "geometric") to describe a particular style or subset of sans-serif typefaces. The origin of this association can be traced back to English typefounder William Thorowgood, who introduced the term "grotesque" and in 1835 produced ''7-line pica grotesque''—the first sans-serif typeface containing actual lowercase letters. An alternate etymology is possibly based on the original reaction of other typographers to such a strikingly featureless typeface. Popular grotesque typefaces include Franklin Gothic, News Gothic, Haettenschweiler, and Lucida Sans (although the latter lacks the G#Typographic forms, spurred "G"), whereas popular neo-grotesque typefaces include Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana.


See also

*Ero guro *Grotesque (architecture) *Hunky punk *Mask *Mummers' play *''Rigoletto'', an opera by Giuseppe Verdi *Sheela na Gig


Notes


References

* Astruc, Rémi (2010) Le Renouveau du grotesque dans le roman du XXe siècle, essai d'anthropologie littéraire, Paris, Classiques Garnier * Clark, John R. (1991
''The modern satiric grotesque and its traditions''


Further reading

* Per Bäckström, Bäckström, Per. ''Enhet i mångfalden. Henri Michaux och det groteska'' (Unity in the Plenitude. Henri Michaux and the Grotesque), Lund: Ellerström, 2005. * Per Bäckström, Bäckström, Per.
Le Grotesque dans l’œuvre d’Henri Michaux. Qui cache son fou, meurt sans voix
', Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007. * * Kayser, Wolfgang (1957) The grotesque in Art and Literature, New York, Columbia University Press * Lee Byron Jennings (1963) The ludicrous demon: aspects of the grotesque in German post-Romantic prose, Berkeley, University of California Press * * Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Harpham, Geoffrey Galt (1982, 2006), On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press)
Selected bibliography
by Philip Thomson, ''The Grotesque'', Methuen Critical Idiom Series, 1972. * Dacos, N. ''La découverte de la Domus Aurea et la formation des grotesques à la Renaissance'' (London) 1969. * * * *


External links


Video tour of the most vivid examples of medieval Parisian stone carving - the grotesques of Notre Dame

The Grotesque: Bloom's Literary Themes edited by Harold Bloom and Blake Hobby
* {{Authority control Grotesque, Visual arts genres Folklore Literary genres Stock characters Grotesques