Thursday, November 29, 2012


The word "grotesque" is related to the Italian word "grotta," a crypt or cave ornamented with fanciful forms. 

It's the same Latin root where we get "grotto." The derivation traces back to the accidental discovery in the late 15th century of elaborately decorated underground rooms from the ancient Roman times. According to Wikipedia:  

The "caves" were in fact rooms and corridors of the Domus Aurea, the unfinished palace complex started by Nero after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 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 and moresque for types of decorative patterns using curving foliage elements.

Throughout the Baroque, Mannerist, and Victorian times, people built artificial grottoes (or "grotte") to stimulate the imagination.
Wikipedia on "grotesque"


Scorchfield said...

modern grotesque:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of gross - you NEED this T-shirt!

Ha Ha Ha....


Anonymous said...

Obviously this post failed miserably to distinguish between common use of the word "grotesque" from a clear art historical understanding of what grotesque ornamentation is; I recommend this.

Anonymous said...

I think most people are familiar with the common art historical sense of "baroque,"

Funny thing you should say that; the grotesques shown on the cover of the book I recommended are by Raphael and his assistants.

James Gurney said...

Etc: I think most people are familiar with the common art historical sense of "grotesque," but the point of the post is to consider the older origin of the term.

Anonymous, my son has that shirt. I love it.

Scorchfield--that's a great example, not only the ornament, but also the setting.