Monday, 17 December 2012

Art Activity - Gargoyles

Recently I subbed for a grade 9/10 art class that was creating clay gargoyles.  The students had to create closed sculptures of gargoyles with exaggerated features and texture.  The students were just getting started, but already there was a variety of ideas from unicorns and Cheshire cats, to owls and manga characters.

I decided to look up what exactly makes a gargoyle

A picture of Henri Le Secq near the  'Stryge'   chimera on Notre Dame de Paris. Date:1853.  Author: Charles Nègre

The name gargoyle comes from the idea of the creature's throat spouting and gurgling water.
Gargoyles were designed to direct rainwater away from the side of a building to prevent it from running down and eroding the walls.  Gargoyles are usually  elongated because the length of the gargoyle determined how far rainwater would be thrown from the building. When used for decorative purposes rather than for their function as water diverters, gargoyles are instead known as grotesques or chimeras.

Gargoyles were also thought to scare away and protect from evil or harmful spirits, which explains their exaggerated features. 

Over the years gargoyles have come to include all kinds of forms. Some gargoyles were even   combinations of real animals and people.  Below are a few examples of gargoyles.

Gargoyle at the southern façade of the church Saint-Martin in Lieurey in France. Author: Stanzilla (CC-BY-3.0)

Gargoyle, St. Mary, Astbury Author: Poliphilo

Saint Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky detail of the exterior - gargoyles.                        Author: Nheyob. (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

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