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Fantastic Beasts in Graphic Art from the 15th to the 18th Century in the Kupferstichkabinett | 01.02.-05.06.2022

Editors’ Choice

Flying on a lucky dragon for once, following a niffler on a treasure hunt or defeating an orc: Fantastic animals, mythical creatures and monsters play a major role in current children’s and youth literature as well as in fantasy and science fiction films. From 1 February 2022, the Kupferstichkabinett will be presenting around 30 virtuoso prints, copper engravings and etchings from the 15th to 18th centuries in its cabinet in the Gemäldegalerie, showing the joyful delight in inventing the fabulous and the strange.

Image above: Hendrick Goltzius, The Dragon Devours the Companions of Cadmos, 1588, copperplate engraving, © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Dietmar Katz

Long before current creations such as the Grüffelo or Schlickschlupfen and Flubberwurmn from the novels of J. K. Rowling, authors and artists were dealing with real animals and magical creatures whose existence was conjured up in legends, described in encyclopaedic compendia and imagined in works of art.

ART at Berlin - Kupferstichkabinett - Israhel van Meckenem_1616555 Foto Dietmar Katz
Israhel van Meckenem, The Griffin, 1465-1500, copper engraving, © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin,
Kupferstichkabinett / Dietmar Katz

Egyptian sculptures, Greek vases and Persian miniatures already show mixed creatures made up of various animals that took on religious and symbolic functions. At the same time, with their help, unknown natural phenomena could be explained, but also fears and foreignness could be thematised.

ART at Berlin - Kupferstichkabinett - Giulio Bonasone_2799469 Foto Dietmar Katz
Giulio Bonasone, Hercules and Acheloos, c. 1570, copperplate engraving, © Staatliche Museen zu
Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Dietmar Katz

The mutability of these animal creatures has preoccupied art just as much as their thoroughly ambivalent relationship to humans, which oscillates between the terribly evil and the divinely good.

The small thematic exhibition presents around 30 prints from the 15th to 18th centuries from the rich holdings of the Kupferstichkabinett showing fantastic animal creatures – including works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Giulio Bonasone or Hendrick Goltzius, among others.

ART at Berlin - Kupferstichkabinett - Meister_ES_1817330 Foto Dietmar Katz
Meister ES, Bird under from the set of the Great Playing Cards, 1463, copperplate engraving, © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Dietmar Katz

Virtuoso copperplate engravings and detailed etchings illustrate the joyful delight in inventing and formulating the fabulous and the strange, whether as ornament, as a depiction of hell or as a narrative of Greek mythology.

Due to Corona, the duration of the exhibition may change at short notice.


Kupferstichkabinett in the Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
10785 Berlin-Tiergarten


Tue – Fri 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Sat + Sub 11:00 am + 6:00 pm

Prizes + Tickets

More on this here: www.smb.museum/en/plan-your-visit/prices-tickets/

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Thomas Hoepker 1936-2024