Cooper–Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
New York City, NY
Fragile Beasts features over 100 ornament prints and drawings from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The exhibition highlights rarely seen works on paper from Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection, as well as several books from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library's rare book collection.
Within the confines of ornamental designs, artists turned elements from nature into otherworldly beings. Creatures, fearsome or playful, graceful or rigid, take their place in dense and sinuous designs for locks, ewers, rings, tapestries, stained glass, and more. These intimately scaled works, often measuring just a few inches, are at times erotically-charged and at others moralizing. Centuries later, these drawings and prints open a window to the imagination of artists and designers as the Age of Exploration unfolded around them.
Exhibition overview from the Cooper Hewitt website