Grotesque

The word grotesque comes from the same Latin root as "Grotto", which originated from Greek krypte "hidden place", meaning a small cave or hollow. The original meaning was restricted to an extravagant style of Ancient Roman decorative art rediscovered and then copied in Rome at the end of the 15th century. The "caves" were in fact rooms and corridors of the Domus Aurea, the unfinished palace complex started by Nero after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, which had become overgrown and buried, until they were broken into again, mostly from above. Spreading from Italian to the other European languages, the term was long used largely interchangeably with arabesque and moresque for types of decorative patterns using curving foliage elements.

Since at least the 18th century (in French and German as well as English) grotesque has come to be used as a general adjective for the strange, fantastic, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks. In art, performance, and literature, grotesque, however, may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as empathic pity. More specifically, the grotesque forms on Gothic buildings, when not used as drain-spouts, should not be called gargoyles, but rather referred to simply as grotesques, or chimeras.

RĂ©mi Astruc has recently argued that although there is an immense variety of motifs and figures, the three main tropes of the grotesque are doubleness, hybridity and metamorphosis. Beyond the current understanding of the grotesque as an aesthetic category, he demonstrated how the grotesque functions as a fundamental existential experience. Moreover, Astruc identifies the grotesque as a crucial, and potentially universal, anthropological device that the societies have used to conceptualize alterity and change.

Read more about Grotesque:  Extensions of The Term in Art, In Literature, Theatre of The Grotesque, In Architecture, In Typography

Famous quotes containing the word grotesque:

    I have found that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.
    Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964)

    “The city’s grotesque iron skeletons
    Would knock their drunken penthouse heads together
    And cake their concrete dirt off in the streets.”
    Robert Frost (1874–1963)

    The moose is singularly grotesque and awkward to look at. Why should it stand so high at the shoulders? Why have so long a head? Why have no tail to speak of?
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)