Marvels of the East: a study in the history of Monsters
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 5, 1942, 159-97
Digital resource (JSTOR)
"The following pages are concerned with a strictly limited aspect of the inexhaustible history of monsters, those compound beings which have always haunted human imagination. The Greeks sublimated many instinctive fears in the monsters of their mythology, in their satyrs and centaurs, sirens and harpies, but they also rationalized those fears in another, non-religious form by the invention of monstrous races and animals which they imagined to live at a great distance in the East, above all in India. It is the survival and transmission of this Greek conception of ethnographical monsters which will here be studied. But even the history of this one trend in the conception of monsters cannot yet be fully written, for the "Marvels of the East" determined the western idea of India for almost 2000 years, and made their way into natural science and geography, encyclopedias and cosmographies, romances and history, into maps, miniatures and sculpture. They gradually became stock features of the occidental mentality, and reappear peculiarly transformed in many different guises." - Wittkower
Contents: The sources of Indian monsters; An enlightened interlude; The heritage of Antiquity and the Christian standpoint of the Middle Ages; The pictorial tradition; The fabulous races moralized: their part in medieval art and literature; Monsters and portents: humanist historiography; The dawn of science and the fabulous races; Monstrosities in popular imagery; The marvels in traveller's reports.
With many black & white illustrations, mostly from manuscripts.
Last update December 6, 2021