Saint Jerome in his Study
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528)
Saint Jerome in his Study
Engraving, 1514
Saint Jerome in his Study

Curious Creatures: Animals on Paper


People have always been fascinated by creatures of all kinds. Animals are central to the human experience, and given our close relationship, it is no surprise that they figure prominently in mythology, art, literature, and theology.

The bonds and struggles between humanity and animalia are frequently explored by artists as reflective of life. They are portrayed in images across all cultures and time periods from prehistoric to contemporary art. The role of animals in art even extends beyond observation of the natural world. Legends, myth and folklore through the centuries have inspired creatures such as unicorns, dragons, and demons.

Through the history of Western art, animals appear in both expected and curious ways. Animals in Western religious art reflect their role in theology. Real and imagined creatures enhance our understanding of scripture and add rich symbolism to its stories. As companions of saints and other important religious figures, and signs for abstract concepts like purity and sin, animals communicate meaning and add visual variety in Christian imagery.