Above is a provocative description of the book Les Ecarts de la nature ou recueil des principales monstruosités from the New York Academy of Medicine's wonderful online exhibition "A Telling of Wonders: Teratology in Western Medicine through 1800", as well as images from the same. Can this really be true, I wonder? Can this truly be the first time print artists "exploited the aesthetic beauty of monsters?" I find it a difficult assertion to support. Regardless, I like the pairing--especially the use of the poet's words--found on a recent post on the wonderful A Journey Round my Skull.
Jacques Louis Moreau (1771-1826). Description des principales monstruosités dans l’homme et dans les animaux précédée d’un discours sur la physiologie et la classification des monstres … avec figures coloriées par N.F. Regnault … Paris: Fournier, 1808.
This book was originally published in 1775 by the artists Nicolas-François and Geneviève Regnault under the title Les Ecarts de la nature ou recueil des principales monstruosités (The Deviations of Nature or a Collection of the Main Monstrosities). For the first time in print, the artists, well aware of the susceptibilities of their readers, exploited the aesthetic beauty of monsters. The prospectus quoted the French poet Boileau: “no monster exists that cannot be made pleasing through art”.
See the original post here. You can visit the "Telling of Wonders: Teratology in Western Medicine" online exhibition here. And you can see larger versions of the images by clicking on them.