The Martyrdom of Marat.

Saint or sinner? The Death of Marat (1754) by Jacques-Louis David. Photograph: Universal History Archive/Getty Images For the painter Jacques-Louis David, who actively supported and participated in the most radical acts of the French Revolution, the death of one of its most eloquent enthusiasts, Marat, was an unforgivable murder. In fact, Marat was knee-deep in […]

A Mesmerist Doctor takes Advantage of a Lady.

A mesmeric physician taking advantage of his female patient. Colour lithograph, 1852. Printed: British College of Health, London. The word mesmerism  took its root from the name of Franz Anton Mesmer, who was a German physician and astrologist, who discovered what he called magnétisme animal  ( animal magnetism) and which others often called mesmerism. Franz […]

Grotesque Flemish Mask Designs circa 1555.

Flemish Mask Designs in the Grotesque Style (1555) A selection of stunning mask designs from the hand of Flemish engraver Frans Huys, rooted in the “grotesque” style and composed of shapes inspired from creaturely and vegetative forms (forming a style that would later become known as “auricular”). Huys apparently based these prints on original designs […]

The Raven in Folklore.

A distinct black shape, tumbling in the updrafts of a mountain crag – a raven at play. The ‘gronking’ call of a raven is one of the most evocative sounds of Britain’s uplands. The raven is probably the world’s most intelligent and playful bird. In the world of myth, it is a bird of paradox, […]

Ruysch, the Artist of “Death”.

Detail from Jan van Neck’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Frederick Ruysch (1683), showing Ruysch in the centre with an infant cadaver. When visiting Frederik Ruysch in Amsterdam in 1697, Tsar Peter the Great kissed one of the specimens from his anatomical museum, and afterwards bought the entire collection. Three hundred years later, the Dutch crown […]

The Painful Art of Tooth pulling, circa 18th Century.

Gripping moment … a tooth being extracted by an evil looking blacksmith/dentist, in an 18th-century oil painting. The blacksmith-cum-dentist seems to be enjoying himself as he uses a pair of giant pincers to remove a tooth – or teeth – from the mouth of a frightened and distraught patient. Much Pain awaits this poor devil […]

“Why are Clowns so Scary?”

by Finlo Rohrer Children are frightened by clown-themed decor in hospitals, a survey suggests. How did the smiley circus entertainers become a horror staple? Anyone who has read Stephen King’s “It” would probably never choose to decorate a children’s ward with clowns. And it probably comes as no surprise to horror fans that a University […]

Fortinio Liceti’s Monsters, 1665.

Highlights from the illustrations in the 1665 edition of Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris, originally published, without the illustrations, in 1616. Liceti’s work, although not the first on the topic of deformities in nature, was perhaps the most influential of the period. In the wake of the book there was a huge rise in interest throughout […]

‘Untitled’.

Desperate, tender, doomed—Beksinski’s couple are heartbreaking. Untitled In one of the most directly affecting pieces on this list, Zdizslaw Beksinski presents the charred and skeletal forms of a couple clinging to one another in the aftermath of some disaster. The red and orange palette suggests some form of fiery destruction, whether nuclear or solar, and […]

Mandrake, Magical & Mysterious.

The Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn (“djinn’s eggs”). Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae). Mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, and hyoscyamine. The roots sometimes bifurcate, causing them to […]