Jon MacNair - The Tarasque


12" x 12" // India Ink on Paper

Jon MacNair created this painting for the fourth incarnation of Antler Gallery's annual show Unnatural Histories.


The Tarasque was a fierce mythological creature that inhabited the area of Nerluc in Provence, France. According to accounts, it wreaked havoc on the land and killed anyone unfortunate enough to get too close. Most described the beast as being a sort of dragon-like hybrid with a lion's head, six furry legs like a bear's, a torso thicker than an ox covered with a turtle shell and a scaly tail that ended with the stinger of a scorpion. It was said to have originated from Galatia and was the offspring of the Onachus (a scaly, bison-like creature that burned everything it touched) and the Leviathan (a giant sea monster described in stories from the Bible). The Tarasque appears in a legend in which it was tamed by Saint Martha. As the story goes, the King of Nerluc had tried his best to rid the land of the monster, employing all his military tactics, but to no avail. It was Saint Martha who ultimately rendered it docile by charming it with prayers and hymns. Once tamed, she led it back to the city, but everyone was so terrified by it's appearance that they attacked and killed it. Martha preached to the citizens and converted many to Christianity. Feeling remorse for the death of the creature, the people changed the town's name to Tarascon. The coat of arms of the city of Tarascon features an image of the creature. In addition, an annual festival is held on the last Sunday in June to relate the legend of Saint Martha and the Tarasque.

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