Creepy Art for Halloween

Head of Medusa by Caravaggio (1597)
@ Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy

Caravaggio had a way with blood, and severed heads made for glorious gore. His reds just pop…just like the heads. His work got me to thinking about the art we have seen on our trips and how some works are just creepy, though often mesmerizing.

Judith beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio (1599),
Galleria Nationale D’Arte Antica @ Palazzo Barberini, Rome

I was inspired by his blood work to try my own depiction of a few severed heads for our Henry VIII Halloween scene:

Not quite as well positioned in the frame but it has an impact on the unsuspecting. I tried for the Caravaggio single source lighting effect of chiascuro.

Depictions of Christian martyrs can be really gruesome and certainly must have scared the peasants into submission .

Above from left to right: Martyrdom of Saint Eulalia by Bernat Martorell (1442-1445); Martyrdom of Saint Lucuphas by Ayne Bru (1500-1507); Saint Vincent on the Gridiron by Mestre de Castelsrado (1500-1502); Altarpiece of Saint Vincent by Bernat Martorell (1430) @ the National Museum of Art in Barcelona.

Who needed Halloween when congregations viewed horrific images such as these each Sunday?

And in sculpture, one artist worked with just the right red colored marble to depict a flayed satyr who challenged Apollo to a music contest. Nice. I take it he lost. Beware of taking on the Gods.

Statue of Marsyas (1077)
@ Capitoline Museums Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome
Bog Body: Some poor Irish guy most likely cut in half and thrown into a bog for nefarious reasons. (National Museum of Ireland, Dublin)

Animals depicted in art or on display in museums can exude anything but cuteness.

This would disrupt any parishioner’s concentration on prayers. You are being watched! We do not blink, we miss nothing.

And monkeys get rendered in poor light, looking like Satan’s minions. ( I am biased since I used to study monkeys.) These were lurking at the Musee Gustave Moreau in Paris.

And we ran into a few stuffed animals that could live in your nightmares for decades:

Monkey Tableau is preserved at the Paris Musee Carnavalet, together with several cats having bad nights:

The local cool cat just waiting for a scratch.

Unlike our local feline in full formal black attire that greets all passing through his territory.

Napoleon’s horse Vizir stares you down at the Paris Musee de L’Armee. The dead eyes indicate this is not friendly Mister Ed. ( “A horse is a horse, of course. And no one can talk to a horse of course. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed.” Mister Ed TV Show 1961-1965)

Speaking of Satan’s minions, the dome of the Duomo in Florence has a multitude of hideous creatures taking care of the undeserving.

I am sure the phrase, ”Things are looking up!” did not originate from a pew in this church. Hell is raining down on you.

And at the Paris Centre Pompidou, creepiness took a different turn from a more modern perspective by Jeff Koons. Bubbles is looking like it would rather be on the Planet of the Apes.

Someone should tell the Hulk to pipe down.

I would be remiss if I did not include work by Salvidor Dali. Much of his work is surreal and odd, an and sometimes verges on creepy:

As a final selection I offer for Halloween creepy art, I give you:

Adoration of the Shepherds with Angels…by Hugo Van Der Goes @ Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This is only a small section on the right panel of the Portinari Triptych/Altarpiece. This is Portinari’s daughter Margaret looking a bit like Hermione at Hogwarts dealing with monsters. But this sums up the dynamic of most Holloween horror shows: innocence and savagery, purity and profanity, good and evil. It is not looking great for the little one.

Be Careful Out There!

About Whittoons

Cartoonist, and community organizer who has covered the globe as a doodlebugger, gandydancer, supernumerary steward, Able Bodied Seaman, Wireman, monkey man, Night Baker and dishwasher, Hobo, hitchhiker and husband.
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