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Two Fishermen on an Aspidochelone
Thérouanne ?, France (formerly Flanders), Europe (Place created)
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 19.1 × 14.3 cm (7 1/2 × 5 5/8 in.)
The description of the "aspidochelone," probably a whale, in this medieval bestiary is a fantastic concoction of nature and legend, all in the service of Christian teaching. One characteristic of the large sea creature noted in the bestiary is its propensity to remain motionless for long periods of time with its back just above the water line, fooling sailors into believing it is an island. Later, as the text relates, when the sailors pitch camp on its back and light their campfires, the monster feels the heat and plunges suddenly into the watery depths. The whale is thereby understood allegorically as the wily devil who deceives sinners, ultimately plunging them into the fires of Hell.
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