are gargoyles the next art collecting trend?

gargoyles-photographer-Palencia-Cathedral-Spain-main-themodernsybarite

In a world where movies and television are fixated on vampires, zombies and other unearthly creatures, I may have just found the next “BIG” art collecting trend – gargoyles!

 

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The gargoyle has never really received the respect it’s due.  Located high at the top of medieval buildings, its beauty is rarely visible to the people on the street below.  It is only when you have the chance to climb up onto the roofs of castles, churches and cathedrals that you can start to appreciate these intricate works of art  created as utilitarian water spouts.  The name for these monsters is related to the fact one can hear the “gurgle” of the water coming from their throats!

 

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The ancient world used waterspouts in the form of animal masks to protect their buildings and to act as guardians in safeguarding their inhabitants.  Later in the Middle Ages, these animal masks turned into the fearsome creatures.  Dragons, devils, and birds of prey conjure up the nightmares of stonemasons.  And as Christianity spread to the new world, so did Gothic architecture along with the gargoyle that added native American fauna like turtles, alligators and armadillos to their ranks.  During the Renaissance creatures of good – like lions and dogs – were favored as being powerful enough to scare away evil on their own.

 

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And just to show that architects and stonemasons do have a sense of humor, on the roof of the cathedral in Palencia, Spain, a gargoyle peers over the side holding an early camera.  According to legend, it’s an addition from about 1910 in which the architect pays tribute to a late friend (main image).

 

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Today gargoyles have come down off their high perches and can be admired as great works of sculpture.  I was surprised to visit a client who had two in his living room displayed along side riotous contemporary artwork.  Proof again that wonderful things from all ages can easily be incorporated into a home given the quality of the work and the owner’s daring.  And while many of these monster gargoyles have spent centuries outdoors, I would caution anybody from placing them in their garden where the elements (and acid rain) might bring about a degradation of their investment.

 

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richard rabel
principal
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city

image credits: AKG, Alamy, Bridgeman, Camera Press, Centre des Documents Nationaux, Corbis, Getty, Pedro Pegenaute.
Location (from top to bottom): photographer/Palencia Cathedral, Spain; roundel with tongue/Westminster Abbey, London; corner monster with headgear/Notre Dame Cathedral, Rouen, France; winged devil/St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cork, Ireland; psycho monkey/Plasencia Cathedral, Caceres, Spain; winged dog/Palencia Cathedral, Spain.

 

 

  • Laurentiu T.

    Love gargoyles, but new trend?
    Maybe not.
    Yes, I’ve heard of Italy’s falling cathedral stones and of people collecting them for the last few hundred years.
    So, while I’m not denying the possibility,
    I suggest that collecting digital [screen] art is new.

  • Michael Andrew Wilson

    I actually think you are on to something, It is quite astute, personally, I have been asked by two clients to help them find stone sculptures and Gargoyles to add decorative elements to their home, In the past 6 months I have seen around 8 gargoyles on the French market, 3 of them where in the Paris flea market.

    • themodernsybarite

      TY for stopping by M. It is nice to hear from you again.

  • Anthony Smith

    Anthony

    Oh Richard, I hope not. Really.

    This will just lead to vandalism and desecration of wonderful medieval Gothic and 19th c Gothic revival churches and buildings….and for what purpose?

    Sadly its happened in Asia and now looks like it may be coming to a city near you.

    We should all fight against this, not support it.

    Oh, no doubt we will hear that the sculptures have come from buildings that were being demolished. That may or may not be true (quite easy to find out really….the National Trust would have to be made aware), and my view would fall into that latter camp, but when money is waved in front of some, they will do whatever they can to make it. Other examples: lead on Church roofs or removing copper wire or flashings.

    • themodernsybarite

      TY Anthony. Someone caught the subliminal message of the post!!! You’re right. To fight against it one first has to know about it. Hence the feature. But also people should realize that not ALL of these artifacts are genuine and if they are, were not necessarily stolen from existing architectural marvels. But as with ANY work of art – buyer BEWARE.

  • F. Reynolds

    I love the gargoyles on the Chrysler Building in NYC.

    • themodernsybarite

      Me 2. Couldn’t include them all, but if we look, there are MANY out there, just staring at us as we make our way through the day!!!

  • themodernsybarite

    TY Alexandra for leaving your thoughts. I have seen this with a few people. The thing is that there are more and more people interested in the arts looking for fresh collecting areas. As with anything that is not produced today, gargoyles are like old master paintings – there are a few really good ones around and most are still “installed” in their place of origin.

  • M. Bowden

    Fascinating now, quite terrifying when a child! And what is that “psycho monkey” doing to the poor person trapped between its legs??? I am a fan of misericords as well, some of which can be equally frightening. Thanks for this post and for identifying the churches/cathedrals where each is located.

    • themodernsybarite

      you’re too funny!