Supernatural

Vampires, mediums and witchcraft . Bridgeman is a comprehensive resource for all things supernatural . Here is a sample of the visual history of how the supernatural has been represented around the world within literature and art.

CHT167945 The Kiss of the Vampire, 1916 (oil on canvas) by Boleslaw Biegas (1877-1954)/ Archives Charmet/ DACS
CHT167945 The Kiss of the Vampire, 1916 (oil on canvas) by Boleslaw Biegas (1877-1954)/ Archives Charmet/ DACS

PWI83769 The Nightmare, c. 1871 (oil on canvas) by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)/ Goethe Museum, Frankfurt, Germany
PWI83769 The Nightmare, c. 1871 (oil on canvas) by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)/ Goethe Museum, Frankfurt, Germany

XJL62331 Demons Armed with Sticks, detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece (oil on panel) by Matthias Grunewald/ Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France
XJL62331 Demons Armed with Sticks, detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece (oil on panel) by Matthias Grunewald/ Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France

The Devil, Hell and Demons

In Christianity and Islam, Hell is traditionally depicted as a fiery pit of despair, populated with demons and other frightening creatures. The detail (left) from the Isenheim Altarpiece and Hieronymus Bosch's hell scenes are typical of 15th and 16th century depictions of hell: grotesque characters run wild in the lawless underworld.  Rebel angels are also a recurring theme of hell and judgement scenes.

Throughout the history of art, Satan and demons take on different forms from snakes to depictions as humans, to frightening animal-like creatures with horns.

From the 14th century through modern times, artists such as William Blake and Gustave Dore, reinterpret  Dante and Virgil's journey through the circles of hell in Inferno from The Divine Comedy. 

Mythological Creatures

Most mythological creatures originated from garbled accounts of travelers's tales. The dragon and griffin have their origin in traditional mythology. Often mythical creatures are a combination of two or more animals, i.e. centaurs (human/horse), minotaurs (bull/human) and mermaids (fish/woman). Others, like the cyclops, are mutants with special powers originally from Greek and Roman mythology.

Throughout history, legendary creatures have been incorporated into heraldry and architectural decoration.

BAL6702 The Cyclops, c. 1914 (oil on canvas) by Odilon Redon (1840-1916)/ Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo, Netherlands
BAL6702 The Cyclops, c. 1914 (oil on canvas) by Odilon Redon (1840-1916)/ Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo, Netherlands

CH21743 The Magic Circle, 1886 (oil on canvas) by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)/ Christie's Images
CH21743 The Magic Circle, 1886 (oil on canvas) by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)/ Christie's Images

Witchcraft and The Occult

The occult and witchcraft, in various historical, anthropological, religious and mythological contexts, is the use of certain kinds of supernatural or magical powers. Images include Germanic woodcuts of the witch hunts of Early Modern Europe, colonial illustrations of Native American witch doctors and beautiful enchantresses from Greek mythology.

Fairies, Elves and Trolls

Although in modern culture, fairies are often depicted as diminutive, sometimes winged, humanoids of small stature, they originally were depicted much differently: tall, radiant, angelic beings or short, wizened trolls.

The Victorian era was particularly noted for fairy paintings. Richard Dadd created paintings of fairy-folk with a sinister and malign tone. Other artists include John Atkinson Grimshaw and Arthur Rackham.

Scandinavia is well-known for its beloved children's folklore and fairy tales with a parade of loveable trolls and other forest creatures, specifically the O.Vaering archive.

BAL4210
BAL4210 "The Rhinemaidens teasing Alberich" from 'The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie' by Richard Wagner, 1910 by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)/ Private Collection


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