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Gravely Gorgeous: Gargoyles, Grotesques and the Nineteenth-Century Imagination
Gargoyle or Grotesque?
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We tend to call any piece of architectural sculpture that depicts animals a gargoyle. Strictly speaking, however, gargoyles are decorative waterspouts that preserve stonework by diverting the flow of rainwater away from buildings. The word, gargoyle, derives from the French gargouille, or throat, from which the verb, to gargle, also originates. Although the sculptural waterspout originated in Antiquity, it grew in popularity on Romanesque structures, and proliferated during the Gothic period. Grotesques, while similar in appearance, serve a variety of other practical and ornamental functions, as corbels or capitals, for instance. The term, grotesque, can apply to any fanciful human or animal form, especially when it indulges in caricature or absurdity. These sculptural creatures appear most commonly on religious structures, but also on university buildings, town halls and even on homes.
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