The dolphin appears with its tail raised, with spiny pectoral fins, prominent scales, its mouth half-open revealing the sharp teeth from which the water gushed.
The animal, mysterious and disturbing with a large head and threatening eyes, sharp teeth, a dorsal fin forming a crest, and a long sinuous tail well visualizes the monstrous character that Renaissance artists attributed to the marine world.
Although it is a cetacean mammal, the dolphin in the 16th and 17th centuries is mostly depicted with the scales, tail and fins of fish.
The artists were not concerned with a factual representation and based their creations on other fanciful depictions inspired by Roman’s representation. As Simona Cohen well explain in her book Animals as Disguised Symbols in Renaissance Art, artists depicted wild animals both fort he sake of some quest for scientific naturalism and for reason to adding symbols tot heir images; science and fiction coexisted.
Since ancient times, the dolphin has been regarded as a kind of personification of marine power. Its celerity and its jumps in the waves accompanying the ships certainly facilitated this analogy.
During the Renaissance was affirmed the ancient conception according to which the seabed was the exact reflection of the terrestrial world inhabited by a similar fauna, but frightening because unknown.
Sculpting the animals of the sea also meant appropriating a little of the wonders of the world, a fascinating production of an all-powerful, but capricious and whimsical nature.
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