Exhibition, Museum, Mythology, Rome

Monsters and mythical creatures invade Rome (photos)

The Roman National Museum at Palazzo Massimo is hosting a superb and original exhibition called “Mostri, creature fantastiche della paura e del mito” (Monsters, fantastic creatures of fear and myth). The show brings together over 100 works from 40 museums, depicting fantastical creatures, all in a series of dark passages intended to resemble the Minotaur’s labyrinth.

Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome
Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome

There are griffins, chimeras, gorgons, centaurs, sirens, satyrs, harpies, sphinxes, alongside the Minotaur, Scylla and Pegasus, all represented on different types of objects: sculptures, architectural decorations, vases, frescoes and mosaics. They range from the Bronze Age to Imperial Rome.

I explored the exhibition and was spellbound by the mythical creatures I saw. Here is a selection of some of my favorite “monstrous” artefacts.

Black-Figured Amphora with chimera, from southern Etruria, 550-525 BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Black figure amphora showing a Chimera, 550-525 BC, Tolfa Group from southern Etruria, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Gorgon's head, from the Temple of Venus and Roma in Rome, 2nd century AD, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Gorgon’s head, from the Temple of Venus and Roma in Rome, 2nd century AD, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Painted travertine slab showing two griffins attacking a panther, 340 BC, found in tomb 58 at Andriuolo, Paestum, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Painted travertine slab showing two griffins attacking a panther, 340 BC, found in tomb 58 at Andriuolo, Paestum, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Fresco depicting a griffin attacking one of the Arimaspi (legendary Scythian), from the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii, 1st century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Fresco depicting a griffin attacking one of the Arimaspi (legendary Scythian), from the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii, 1st century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Mosaic with Ketos (sea serpent), 3rd century AD, from Italy, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Mosaic with a ketos (sea monster) found at Caulonia (Monasterace) in
the Casa del Drago, 3rd century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Bronze statuette of a Centaur, 8th-7th century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Bronze statuette of a Centaur, 8th-7th century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Marble group of a Nereid on a sea monster, from Rome, 1st century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Marble group of a Nereid on a sea monster, from Rome, 1st century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Terracotta acroterial statue of a Harpy/Siren, from Gabii, end of 6th century BC - beginning 5th century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Terracotta acroterial statue of a Harpy/Siren, from Gabii, end of 6th century BC – beginning 5th century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Amphora with Heracles and the Lernaean Hydra (an ancient serpent-like water monster), circa 525 BC, from Tarquinia (Italy), Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Hydria (ceramic water container) with Heracles and the Lernaean Hydra (an ancient serpent-like water monster), from Etruria, attributed to the Painter of Aquila, 530-500 BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Apulian plate with Bellephoron on Pegasus fighting the Chimera, 2nd half of 4th century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Red-figure plate showing Bellerophon riding Pegasus and a Chimera, by the Baltimore painter, second half of the 4th century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Terracotta statuette of a leontocephalus, from Tharros, 6th-5th century BC, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Terracotta statue of lion-headed man with gold and silver insets, 6th-5th century BC, from Tharros, Sardinia, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato
Marble statue of a Minotaur, part of a group with Theseus, 1st century AD, found in Rome in Via San Tommaso in Parione in 1895, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome © Carole Raddato
Marble statue of a Minotaur, part of a group with Theseus, 1st century AD,
found in Rome in Via San Tommaso in Parione in 1895, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
© Carole Raddato

This exhibition is monstrously beautiful and I would recommend anyone to go and see it. “Monsters: Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth,” is on view at the fabulous Palazzo Massimo until June 1, 2014. Visit the museum website for more info here.

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