A good imagination beats any psychedelic drug. Take a look at these drawings by 17th century Dutch artist Arent van Bolten featuring weird, grotesque hybrid creatures—part human, part cat, part dragon, part demon, part who the fuck knows….?
The last part is a fair description of what we do know about Arent van Bolten—which is little more than birth, marriage and death:
He was born about 1573 in Zwolle. In 1603 he there married Brigitta Lantinck. They had eight children. Some of them established themselves as solicitors in Leeuwarden where Brigitta Lantinck’s sister had married but remained childless so that the children of van Bolten became her heirs. Arent van Bolten must have died about 1625, for he is still mentioned in 1624, whereas in 1626 we read only of his widow.
Even his death date is uncertain as some put it up as far as 1633—which may have come as a surprise to his wife if she was already a widow in 1626. Apart from this slim entry we know he was a silversmith by profession, was in Italy 1596-1602, and left behind “a great deal of silverware and plaquettes.”
He may well have been one of those craftsmen who themselves made both the model and the finished article and perhaps even the original design which was not the normal practice at this time.
Van Bolten sculpted religious and rustic scenes and knobbly weird bronzes of “squat, ponderous” mythological beasts. It is for the latter that he is now best known—in particular his 400+ drawings of surreal and grotesque creatures compiled by an unknown collector circa 1637 which are currently held by the British Museum.
It’s unknown what Van Bolten’s intention was in creating these rather fabulous beasts but the drawings do reveal the eye of a man who was a sculptor rather than a painter. His line relishes building up the layers, curves, depths, and organic growths rather than just offering a mere representation. Van Bolten’s grotesques have a solidity that makes it appear we could actually touch them.
More of Arent van Bolten’s beasties and grotesque creatures, after the jump…