When Nero's Domus Aurea was inadvertently rediscovered in Rome at the end of the 15th century, its sumptuous interiors not only sparked renewed interest in ancient culture but revealed an unfamiliar, playful style of classical ornament that captured the imagination of Renaissance artists. By that time this fabulous palace had long been covered with earth, and for the first explorers it was like entering a series of caves or 'grottoes', which is why they called the style of the painting on the walls and ceilings 'grotesque'. Far removed from the formal language of traditional classical ornament, what they saw was something essentially decorative and only semi-serious: parodies of classical mythology, fantastic hybrid monsters, men hatching out of eggs, images of perverse eroticism, impossible architectural visions, giant butterflies, mischievous putti, monkeys, sphinxes and nightmare insects - a whole repertoire of uninhibited imagination where nothing was taboo.
Size:32.5 x 26.8 cm
Publication date:10 November 2008
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