Animal Style

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Animal Style


a conventional term for a style widespread in ancient art. Distinguished by depictions of individual animals or parts of their bodies, as well as by complex compositions representing several animals, it originated among a number of peoples during the Bronze Age and became particularly widespread during the Iron Age. The origin of the animal style is linked with animal worship; depictions of sacred animals were gradually transformed into conventional ornamental motifs.

The earliest examples of the animal style are from Egypt and Mesopotamia and date from the third millennium B.C.; examples from the second millennium B.C. have been found in Southwest Asia, India, and China. In the USSR the oldest examples of the animal style date from the third millennium B.C. and are from Transcaucasia and the Northern Caucasus. The style appeared in the Volga Region, the Urals, Middle Asia, and Southern Siberia during the second millennium B.C. It appeared in its most developed form in Scythian-Sarmatian art of the Northern Black Sea Region and in the art of Southern Siberian tribes during the first millennium B.C. and the first few centuries A.D. The Scythian animal style was influenced by the art of Iran and the Near East; however, in the Northern Black Sea Shore it was significantly influenced by ancient Greek art.

Characteristics of the animal style include the keen observation of nature, realistic depictions of animal forms and movements, and dynamic compositions depicting animal combat. The most prevalent representations are of herbivorous animals, predatory beasts and birds, and imaginary creatures (for example, griffins). Animal figures were engraved on metal and molded and carved on wood and bone. Leather and felt applique and tattoos on the human body were also rendered in the animal style.

Naturalism was combined with definite conventions; figures were arranged to conform to the objects which they were ornamenting. Animals were depicted in stylized poses (for example, fighting or leaping); hoofed animals were represented with their legs tucked under their bodies and predators were shown curled up in a ball. Conventional devices were employed to render various parts of an animal’s body (for example, eyes were represented by circles, horns by volutes, and mouths by semicircles). Sometimes only a portion of an animal (for example, the head, paws, or claws), symbolizing the animal as a whole, was depicted. Animal figures were also used to decorate depictions of other animals. In the Sarmatian animal style there was a noticeable increase in schematization and in the use of conventional elements; the depictions were frequently covered with numerous colored inlays. As a result of the spread of Christian art in the West and Islamic art in the East, the animal style gradually lost its importance during the first millennium A.D. However, animal motifs remained central elements in the medieval applied arts of various peoples (particularly in Western and Eastern Europe). Depictions of animals, birds, and fantastic creatures (for example, the kitovras [centaur] and the siren) appeared in the valuable jewelry, stone carvings, and illuminated manuscripts of Old Russia.


Kiselev, S. V. Drevnaia istoriia luzhnoi Sibiri [2nd ed.]. Moscow, 1951.
Rudenko, S. I. Kul’tura naseleniia Gornogo Altaia v skifskoe vremia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
Artamanov, M. I. “K voprosu o proiskhozhdenii skifskogo iskusstva.” In Soobshcheniia Gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha, Leningrad, 1962, issue 22.
Rostovtzeff, M. The Animal Style in South Russia and China. Princeton, 1929.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Finds included masterpieces of the infamous animal style with female belt buckles depicting scenes of tigers fighting dragons, and beautifully made bronze bulls, horses, camels and snakes.
Since then, Ellipsis has hit Gold status for 100,000 domestic sales with the help of four A-listed tracks at Radio 1 with Wolves of Winter, Animal Style, Howl and Re-arrange - the latter of which achieved the rare distinction of being simultaneously playlisted at both Radio 1 and Radio 2.
This imagery laid the basis for the so-called "Animal Style" that became pervasive throughout China, North Asia, and Central Asia in the early Iron Age.
The Animal Style, with two cheesy patties plus fries inside, was a huge delight that I nearly couldn't finish.
Their "Double-Double, animal style" (two patties cooked in mustard, with onions, cheese and a secret Thousand Island-type sauce, freshly cooked and served in a 'drive-thru' for less than $5), could be the most significant culinary achievement of the Golden State, greater even than iceberg lettuce or The French Laundry.
There were three kinds of burgers available at the pop-up: In-N-Out Hamburger (P80), Cheeseburger (P120) or the Double-Double (P160), served either Animal Style or Protein Style.
"Animal Style" means the beef is cooked in mustard and slathered in grilled onions and extra sauce.
In-N-Out devotees are willing to cross state lines just to order the Double Double, perhaps an Animal Style burger, or any other of items on the chain's not-so-secret "secret menu." In-N-Out expanded beyond its California roots with locations in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Texas.
For those who have not, it is certainly worthy of adding to your "bucket list." When you get the chance, order the Double Double "Animal Style," and thank me later.
"Animal Style:" burger of your choice with lettuce, tomato, mustard-cooked beef patty, pickle, extra spread, grilled onions
These plaques, so ubiquitous in museum collections, offer superlative examples of the artistic heights attained in the so-called animal style of the prehistoric Asian steppe.