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strange but beautiful paintings

Winged girl mermaid

girl grotesque

a female grotesque

This painting of a winged mermaid was developed from a sketch of a grotesque in the form of a brass doorknocker (catalogue number S101) in the Wallace Collection, London. The background images show earlier stages in the painting.

Today the name grotesque means anything horribly ugly. In the past it included these decorations, strange but beautiful, as used for example in the ceiling decoration of the Uffizi gallery in Florence.

The word grotesque or grotesk originally referred to a form of decoration inspired by ancient Roman decoration by a painter named Fabullus. These paintings were rediscovered in about 1480 in buried rooms once belonging to Nero's palace.

Because the rooms were believed to be grottoes, these paintings became known as grotesques.

Technical details

Oil on prepared paper, 21x29 inches approximately. Pigments used: raw siena, raw umber, yellow ochre, white.

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This painting is now available as free desktop wallpaper.

All images are copyright Martin Dace 2005, 2008.