Medieval art is a treasure trove of weirdness. And we’re not the only ones to think so. Daniel Holland created a Twitter thread about medieval animals in paintings that look nothing like real animals because the artist hadn’t actually seen them. The thread went viral and loads of people are now experiencing the joys of drawings in bestiaries based on hearsay, unbridled imagination, and interesting stylistic choices.

Upvote your fave peculiar medieval beats, dear Pandas, and let us know which illustrations you loved the most and why. When you’re done enjoying these paintings, check out our posts about unexpected and creative medieval art right here, here, and here.

Daniel told Bored Panda that he was inspired to create the thread after seeing a segment in the TV show ‘Horrible Histories’ about inaccurate medieval art. This got him thinking what other examples were out there. Daniel was pleasantly surprised by the amount of attention the pictures got. Read on for the rest of his insights.

More info: Twitter | Instagram | DannyDutch.com

#1

Medieval-Animal-Paintings-That-Dont-Look-Real-Daniel-Holland

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Mike Crow
Community Member
3 months ago

Could this be the first documentation of angry birds?

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#2

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Shinobi Shabby
Community Member
3 months ago

This on is pretty good for an artist who has never seen one

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#3

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Tiny Dynamine
Community Member
3 months ago

How can he have never seen a snail? His name is Dutch or Flemish, i.e. rain.

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While it’s easy to scoff at artists for not knowing how crocodiles, elephants, and tigers look, imagine having to draw them from memory. Better yet, try describing the animal to someone else and have them draw it! Or imagine how well we’d do if we had to draw an alien species when we only had overexaggerated tales from adventurers to go by.

However, there might be other reasons why medieval artists drew animals this way and it might not just be because of bad descriptions—it could have been a stylistic decision.

“I’ve been educated by a lot of replies I’ve had that these pictures were often painted in this style for a myriad of reasons, not necessarily because of poor descriptions received by the artists,” Daniel pointed out. “I’d assume if artists were given descriptions today without seeing animals and asked to paint them the only difference would be technical ability and materials used, they’d likely look just as inaccurate.”

#4

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DragonOfTheKitchenTable
Community Member
3 months ago

It's......a green scaly dog...I think?

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#5

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tuzdayschild
Community Member
3 months ago

Someone gave this poor creature a glimpse into the year 2020.

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#6

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True Blue
Community Member
3 months ago

"I can see the resemblance" Said no one ever

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Bored Panda previously spoke about medieval illustrations with Dr. Catherine Harding from the University of Victoria and Professor Claire LaBrecque from the University of Winnipeg. According to them, medieval scribes and artists enjoyed creating rich and deep networks of meaning for their audiences with their paintings, sometimes with hidden meanings for their audiences to puzzle out. Also, they weren’t strangers to playfulness in their art.

How long each illustration took varied wildly depending on a lot of factors: from the size of the book to how complex the drawings were. Simple pen-and-wash illustrations could be done in minutes while more serious drawings required gold and precious pigments.

#7

Medieval-Animal-Paintings-That-Dont-Look-Real-Daniel-Holland

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Hanni
Community Member
3 months ago

Why does it have male AND female genitalia?

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#8

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David K
Community Member
3 months ago

"So...you´re telling me that there is this elephasomething animal that grows size of a house?" "Yes, my liege, we saw them many." "Nah, it can´t be. Johnson, draw it half a horse and look like a mix of a wolf, a boar and a trombone." "Like this, sir?" "Righte."

Aragorn II Elessar
Community Member
3 months ago (edited)

“But fast, thou claimst that there art a gargantuan beast, yea, one that groweth to the likeness of a cottage?” “Verily, lord, it is even so. The natives shewed them unto us, many of said beasts.” “Nay, it canst be. Drawest thou this beast like unto a horse, yet a portion of the size, and mixest its appearance with that of the wild dog, and the pig also, and yet, addest thou a horn.” “A horn, sire?” “Yea, verily.” “As such?” “Yea, Johnson. Forsooth, thou shalt be remembered e’en to the end of days, for thou wert the one to first put to parchment the picture of the fearsome eleaph-ent.” “My liege, the natives did call it a...” “Nay, bold squire. Forsooth, as I have called it, so shall it be known forever more as the fearsome Eleaph-ent.”

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Torchicachu
Community Member
3 months ago

i mean thats more accurate than some of o them

tuzdayschild
Community Member
3 months ago

This one is closer than most of the others.

John Tan
Community Member
3 months ago

not too far off

Pansexual (In theory)
Community Member
3 months ago

For some reason it made me think of a crumple-horned snorkack

MellonCollie
Community Member
3 months ago

That sounds like a Roald Dahl creation?

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Anxious Pansexual Nightmare
Community Member
3 months ago

Looks like a boar

M O'Connell
Community Member
3 months ago

That might have been the only animal with tusks the artist had ever seen. Whomever wrote the description for them failed to record that elephant's tusks point down and away.

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Rebecca
Community Member
3 months ago (edited)

I'm more interested in knowing what the animal in the bottom left hand corner of the second picture is meant to be.

Gunilla Olsson
Community Member
3 months ago

Why are all the elephants so tired and sad?

Oof Me
Community Member
3 months ago

Because they got some body parts swapped.

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Cori
Community Member
3 months ago

Why is the tiny dragon biting itself?

glowworm2
Community Member
3 months ago

I keep expecting musical notes to come out of their ears and trunk every time they trumpet.

Jo Choto
Community Member
3 months ago

Everyone loves tiny pig-elephants.

Bacony Cakes
Community Member
3 months ago

Not the worst possible interpretation.

RO EL
Community Member
3 months ago

Actually from the first half of the 13th century :)

CNorthingtonP
Community Member
3 months ago

Artichoke trees?

Jenna
Community Member
3 months ago

I am surprised by this considering the extent to which elephants were depicted in the classical period. At least they remembered Pyrrhus' turrets.

Banjo Peppers
Community Member
3 months ago

Not bad.

Laila Hernandez
Community Member
3 months ago

nice horse and goat, and whatever-the-hell-that tusky thing is

Collie
Community Member
3 months ago

He is so cute

TabledTurnsxddd
Community Member
3 months ago

wat-

Sasha Kuleshov
Community Member
3 months ago

Whales were kind of like wolves but Elephants?

Gemjoybug
Community Member
3 months ago

They're so sad looking

Leonel Franco
Community Member
3 months ago

This is the most acurate so far

Philip Malchek
Community Member
3 months ago

Did they ride baby elephants? :(

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#9

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DragonOfTheKitchenTable
Community Member
3 months ago

wait, it has a beak AND a mouth???

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“We have all these stereotyped ideas about how religious medieval people were. But the research shows over and over again how creative, playful and resilient they were,” Dr. Harding told Bored Panda. “There is strong evidence for people who thought outside of the box as in the case of a medieval heretic, who created their own mental world that runs counter to the culture. I love their mental agility and their passion for questioning. They made medieval Christianity over and over again in so many ways. That is the creative part.”

Professor LaBrecque said that, in her opinion, we’re living in a world that’s strange but not stranger than it was in medieval times. “It was just different, and unexpected, and super creative.”

#10

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tuzdayschild
Community Member
3 months ago

This is not a beaver, it's a weaselfish. Trust me, they do not make good pets.

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#11

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Torchicachu
Community Member
3 months ago

also look at those mud boots they gave it. very fasionable

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#12

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pei meow
Community Member
3 months ago

ah, the blue spotted tiger

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#13

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Titas Burinskas
BoredPanda Staff
3 months ago

Nice shoes, tornadophant

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#14

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Tiny Dynamine
Community Member
3 months ago

"And his balls, man... his balls were big!" - "And you say he was wearing a trenchcoat?" - "Yeah, totally."

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#15

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Dana
Community Member
3 months ago

It kind of looks like a Komodo dragon

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#16

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kjorn
Community Member
3 months ago

wich is the lion and wich is the bear? hard to tell

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#17

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David K
Community Member
3 months ago

And he can apparently walk on water. By the way, is it a brocolli tree in the background?

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