Owl figurine from the Moche culture of Peru, 3rd-6th century.
|Woodblock print of a horned owl sleeping on a maple branch, 1830s-1840s by Utagawa Hiroshige.|
Reading What an Owl Knows by Jennifer Ackerman, I have learned much about owls in art and religious thoughts in human history. My earlier blog post about this book is here: Great Natural History.
The owl has been present in human drawings, paintings, and sculptures from the earliest prehistoric cave art to the most modern painters, and shows up in numerous cultures with a wide variety of meanings, sometimes happy, sometimes sinister. I found a number of images on the web that show all sorts of views of owls, some that were mentioned in the book, others not.
The story of this painting:
Picasso owls from a google search. According to What an Owl Knows,
Picasso (1881-1973) became fond of owls because of his pet owl Ubu.
Leonard Baskin (1922-2000). "Owls" (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
36,000 year-old owl image from the Chauvet Cave in France, (source)
|Ancient Egyptian owl image. The hieroglyphic for the letter M was an image of an owl.|
Owl on an Athenian coin (480-420 BCE).
The owl was a companion of Athena, patron goddess of Athens. (Wikipedia)
Cochiti potter Juanita Irene Ortiz (1960-2008). "Mapuwana": a storyteller owl.
Source: The Owl: A Nuanced Symbol in Native American Cultures
Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013). Preening Owl, 1995. (source)
Ashevak was a native of an Inuit village on Baffin Island. She created numerous owl art works.
|Queenie McKenzie Nakarra, “Mook Mook Owls with Young,” (1996)|
The story of this painting:
"In the Narrangunny (Dreaming story), an Aboriginal woman was sitting at a waterhole fishing for bream. After catching a few fish, she heard a fearsome noise coming from above. Thinking it was the 'devil-devil', she threw everything in the air and ran to her camp screaming. A few of the bravest men were dispatched to investigate the frightening sound, only to find, while checking a small cave above the fishing hole, owls, 'damboyn' sitting in the darkness making their 'mook-mook' call – the sound was merely being amplified by the cave walls."
|Tsuchiya Koitsu. “Owl” (1930) |
Owl Proverbs and Sayings
Francisco Goya (1746-1828). "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters."
| Frans Hals. "Malle Babba," 1633. (Wikipedia)|
This owl may illustrate the Dutch proverb "Drunk as an Owl."
Cornelis Bloemaert (1603-1692). "The Wise Owl."
"What good is candle or glasses when the owl does not wish to see?"
Hieronymous Bosch (died 1516). One of many disturbing and weird owl images,
which appear throughout the work of this very strange painter.
These are excerpted in "The Hidden Symbolism of Owls in Hieronymous Bosch's Paintings."