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Andrea Del Sarto'S Madonna Of The Harpies And The Human-Animal Hybrid In The Renaissance

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Chapter Summary

Some modern authors have recognized Giorgio Vasari's error in identifying the creatures on the Madonna's octagonal pedestal as harpies. This chapter attempts to clarify the function of these eccentric creatures in the iconography of the altarpiece, based on relevant literary and artistic precedents where hybrid creatures are featured in sacred iconography, and evidence related to the patronage of a women's monastic community. The figures are neither harpies nor sphinxes, and there is no iconographic tradition to support the theory of the apocalyptic locusts. The chapter examines the significance of the human-animal hybrid as an expression of attitudes and concepts in late medieval and Renaissance culture, and then attempts to analyze the specific physiognomic peculiarities of this figure. It notes that the increased internalization of the metamorphosis myths and the popularity of human-animal metaphors in Renaissance literature and art may be associated with introspective practices of the mendicant orders.

Keywords: apocalyptic locusts; Giorgio Vasari; human-animal hybrid; human-animal metaphors; iconography of the altarpiece; Madonna of the Harpies; Renaissance



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