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Gravely Gorgeous: Gargoyles, Grotesques and the Nineteenth-Century Imagination
Le Stryge, Notre Dame de Paris
Click to enlargeIn 1854, the noted etcher, Charles Meryon, produced a series of Parisian views in which Notre Dame de Paris figured prominently. His brooding picture of the apse, surrounded with ominous ravens, drew heavily from Hugo’s dark vision of the structure. Meryon also featured one of Viollet-le-Duc’s grotesque figures, which he called le stryge, the vampire, as his frontispiece. Meryon’s work did much to publicize the figure, and ever since, the stryge has been the best known of Viollet-le-Duc’s creatures, and possibly the most famous grotesque in Europe. John Taylor Arms’s etching of the figure pays homage to Meryon’s earlier work. Arms captured the beast’s frightening, yet comical nature: holding its head in a gesture of boredom, it contemplates the city of Paris below. Arms satirically entitled his image, Le Penseur, the thinker. John Taylor Arms is best known for his etchings of medieval churches in Europe. Trained as an architect at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he expressed through his choice of subjects his antiquarian interest in Gothic architecture.
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