Vampires are seductive and dangerous being of the night, they have captivated the minds of authors, film makers, and of course, artists. Pieces of art depicting these mysterious and dark beings have existed for well over a thousand years. Let’s explore this bit of this history, shall we…
The earliest depiction of a vampire is said to be on a prehistoric Assyrian bowl, around 2,400 years old, in which a man is having sex with a vampire-like being whose head has been severed from the body. Not exactly a pleasant image, but one that is believed to be one of the first images of a supposed vampire.
Images of animal/human hybrids feasting on humans have also been found on prehistoric cave walls, as well as on the walls of tombs, in the form of sculptures, and in many other ancient art forms. Are they technically vampire images? Not really, but there is the feasting of blood involved, so they are vampiric. That counts for something, right?
It wasn’t until the worldwide interest in vampires before and after the 18th century that vampires began to play a bigger role in Western art. With Europe fearing real vampires and later, the publishing of influential tales like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, vampires were on the minds of everyone, including artists. At first the vampire was depicted as a decaying and monstrous being that spread disease, death and evil. During those times, that’s exactly what a vampire was to Europeans and the Church – a monster. But over time the vampire evolved into something seductive and sexually deviant.
Vampire art transcends time; there are classic works of art depicting the undead, modern pieces, images by well-known masters, pieces done by you and me. There’s Edvard Munch’s Love and Pain, also known as Vampire (1894), which sold at auction for $38 million. The Vampire (1897) by Philip Burne-Jones is one of the best known paintings of a vampire, one many of you have seen in the past. There is also the very very well-known artwork of Victoria Frances, whose vampire art can be found everywhere. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here.
Vampires in art are eternal.