For thousands of years, grotesques have captivated viewers for their elegantly orchestrated composition, combination of fantastical, man-made and natural elements, and juxtaposition of artistic restraint and unbridled exuberance. Here are some examples of what has become a very uncommon art form, also known as the Fourth Pompeian Style.
These first several examples are from the Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House) in Rome, which were uncovered in the late sixteenth century, and documented in Vestigia delle Terme di Tito by Brenna, Smuglewicz, and Carloni, 1776. Please click on the images to see them in much greater detail.
The Domus Aurea paintings inspired Raphael and da Udine’s work at the Vatican. Giovanni da Udine was a student and assistant of Raphael.
Raphael and his students are also credited for much of the decorative painting at the Villa Farnesina in Rome.
Grotesques have been used as outdoor decoration as well, such as at the casino at Villa Farnese in Caprarola, Italy.
And finally, here’s a link to Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo’s Book 6, Chapter 48 in his Treatise on Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, titled The Composition of Grotesques, written in 1585.