Fantastic Beasts and Figures of Myth in Old Master Through Modern Prints

While works by the old masters are often known to depict religious scenes, their work occasionally strayed into fantastical territory as well, showing a range of creatures and myth. Here we’ve taken a tour through some of the various monsters and myths represented in our upcoming auction of Old Master Through Modern Prints

Lot 233: Albrecht Dürer, Beast With Horns Like a Lamb, woodcut, 1498. Estimate $6,000 to $9,000.
 
While still technically a religious image, master German Renaissance printmaker Albrecht Dürer’s apocalyptic print certainly includes some intimidating beasts. 
Lot 312: Pieter Bruegel (after), Greed, engraving, 1558. Estimate $5,000 to $8,000. 
 
This engraving is full of all manner of of greedy anthropomorphic monsters, from the giant windmill head in the back to the frog-mouthed mer-creature downing a few of his fishy brethren in the bottom right corner. 
 

 

Lot 476: Francisco José de Goya, Allá vá eso, etching and aquatint, circa 1799. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000.
From Goya’s Los Caprichos, this etching shows a witch and a devil or demon, along with a cat and a serpent, often thought to be familiars of witches.

 

Lot 303: Hans Baldung Grien, Sleeping Groom and a Sorceress, woodcut, 1544. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.
 
The most gifted student of Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien’s work explored themes of witchcraft and sorcery, a topic of fascination and fear in Strasbourg during his time there. 


Lot 341: Giovanni B. Castiglioni, Circe Changing Ulysses’ Men into Beasts, etching, circa 1651. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500. 
 

A figure of myth alternatively represented as a sorceress or goddess associated with magic, in Homer’s The Odyssey the titular character must rescue his men from Circe, who has turned them into animals. 


Lot 305: Hans Sebald Beham, The Lady and Death, engraving, 1541. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500. 
Depictions of Death by various printmakers range from ominous to amusing. Beham’s Death may be somewhere in between, with his skeletal features under a jester-like hood. 

 

Lot 435: Jacques Chiquet, Cat under Arrest, engraving, circa 1700. Estimate $800 to $1,200. 
Slightly more whimsical, but still fantastic, Chiquet’s piece shows a band of anthropomorphic beasts arresting a cat for his crime, which is described just below. 
 
 
 
For more fantastic beasts, mythic creatures and mysterious beings, take a look at our complete Old Master Through Modern Prints catalogue