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‘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)|
Thomas Coulborn & Sons
64 Birmingham Road
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