Friday, 22 June 2012

Entry: grotesquerie (n.)

In context: See previous.

Definition:   Grotesque objects collectively; grotesque quality; a piece of grotesqueness.

Other: The entire OED on grotesque (adj.) is fascinating stuff.  Here's a few pieces:

 a. A kind of decorative painting or sculpture, consisting of representations of portions of human and animal forms, fantastically combined and interwoven with foliage and flowers.

 2. A clown, buffoon, or merry-andrew.  [So in modern French (as masculine n.).] Cf. antic n. and adj.

 3. Printing. A square-cut letter without ceriph, THUS; formerly called stone-letter.

 a. In a wider sense, of designs or forms: Characterized by distortion or unnatural combinations; fantastically extravagant; bizarre, †quaint. Also transf. of immaterial things, esp. of literary style.

†b. Of landscape: Romantic, picturesquely irregular. Obs.

Etymology:  Originally < early modern French crotesque n. feminine, an adaptation (by assimilation to Old French crote = Italian grotta ) of Italian grottesca ‘a kinde of rugged vnpolished painters worke, anticke worke’ (Florio 1598), ‘anticke or landskip worke of Painters’ (Florio 1611), an elliptical use (= opera or pittura grottesca ) of the feminine of grottesco adj. < grotta : see grotto n. and -esque suffix. (Compare Spanish grutesco, Portuguese grutesco, an alteration of the Italian word after Spanish gruta, Portuguese gruta = Italian grotta.) It is remarkable that Florio in both his Dicts. (1598 and 1611) has crotesca as an Italian word, explained as ‘antique, fretted, or carued worke’; this, if genuine, would seem to be a readoption from French. Before the end of the 16th cent. the French word was occasionally spelt grotesque, after the original It; this form was adopted into English about 1640, and has been the prevailing form ever since. But early in the 17th cent. writers acquainted with Italian had introduced the masculine form of the adj., crotesco, which occurs as late as 1646; the more usual Italian form grotesco appears as English first in the 1632 edition of Florio's translation of Montaigne, and did not become obsolete until the 18th cent.

The etymological sense of grottesca would be ‘painting appropriate to grottos’. The special sense is commonly explained by the statement that grotte, ‘grottoes’, was the popular name in Rome for the chambers of ancient buildings which had been revealed by excavations, and which contained those mural paintings that were the typical examples of ‘grotesque’. (See Voc. della Crusca, s.v. Grotta, §iv.) Although this seems to be only a late conjecture, without any actual evidence, it appears to be intrinsically plausible.

SNOOT score: 1
Page: 344

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

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