Carved Oak ‘Basilisk’ Overdoor
Carved Oak ‘Basilisk’ Overdoor
Carved Oak ‘Basilisk’ Overdoor
Carved Oak ‘Basilisk’ Overdoor
Carved Oak ‘Basilisk’ Overdoor

Carved Oak ‘Basilisk’ Overdoor

1590 to 1600 England

Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons


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A carved overdoor depicting two basilisks – mythical beasts with the head, legs and feet of a cockerel, and the tail of a snake or a dragon. Both basilisks are shown eating imaginary fruits, which resemble pomegranates, carved on either side of a centrally positioned applied divider which depicts a gentleman wearing a ruff set against a foliate background.

‘Basilisk’: The basilisk is usually described as a crested snake, but also, as it appears in this instance, as a cockerel with a snake’s tail. The basilisk’s Latin name is ‘regulus’ – it is the ruler or king of the serpents – and its Greek name ‘basiliscus’ means ‘little king’. Subsequently, basilisks were sometimes depicted wearing a crown. Basilisks were also known as: Baselicoc, Basiliscus, Cocatris, Cockatrice, Kokatris, and Sibilus. According to legend, the odour of the basilisk was said to kill a snake; the fire emanating from the basilisk’s mouth was said to kill birds; and its glance would kill a man. It could also kill by hissing, hence it being known as ‘sibilus’. Like the scorpion it likes dry places; and its bite causes the victim to become hydrophobic. Hatched from a cock’s egg, a basilisk can only be killed by a weasel.

Mythical beasts including basilisks appeared in a ‘bestiary’, a compendium of beasts in illustrated volumes, made popular in the Middle Ages, in which the physical characteristics of each animal were described; and then the creature was associated with a moral lesson. This description was then followed by an illustration of the animal. Animals included in bestiaries ranged from species native to Western Europe to exotic beasts and imaginary creatures. The two examples depicted here show images of basilisks with very similar attributes to the basilisks on this overdoor. The bestiary is also a reference to the symbolic language of animals in Western Christian art and literature.
Height 28.00 cm (11.02 inches)
Width 130.00 cm (51.18 inches)
Depth 11.00 cm (4.33 inches)
Stock Code
Carved Oak.
Thomas Coulborn & Sons

Thomas Coulborn & Sons
Vesey Manor
64 Birmingham Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B72 1QP

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