Krampus, 2017, detail

During our Christmas 2016 festive holiday I began to wonder if there was an alternative ‘Bad Santa’ figure in mythology who would really punish the naughty ones. I suppose my mind has naturally been preoccupied with the polarisation which has occurred over the world so strongly in the last year. We had also greatly enjoyed another viewing of ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’, which I now regard as one of the fine modern films.

So, I was surprised to find a range of really scary characters in the Scandinavian and Germanic cultures which simply do not exist in the UK, at least not anymore. They usually involve a goat image and often have a demonic look. The Swedish, my wife assures me, used to celebrate with a goat which was mean enough to demand presents back from the household, in contrast to the giving figure of Santa. They had to give that up, I suppose, and now a straw goat will benignly sit nearby while Tomten distributes his presents.
I had a look for images of this creature of discomfort and came across a peculiar image from 16th century Germany which showed exactly the kind of monstrous chimera which stills invades the popular imagination of mainland Europe. There is one which stood out and I am fascinated that it is rather an elusive creature by an artist I can’t even describe with certainty. I know it is part of a triptych depicting the Heilige Antonius Abbas and was painted in 1505-10. It is situated in the Johanniterkirche in Schwäbisch Hall, a small town in Baden-Württemberg. This little masterpiece fascinated me so much I began to model in 3D the creature who so typified Krampus.

Heilige Antonius Abbas, 1505-10

This was the only image I could find for reference. The project both amused and horrified my son who is old enough to perceive it fully. It quickly became my intention to show it off at an interview to demonstrate my developing skills with the sculpture program, ZBrush. My son could not understand why I would want to choose this example! I love the bizarre rooster-like details of the face. It is also fascinating to observe the incorrect but powerfully emotive anatomy of his torso and limbs. It is always a challenge to model a character in 3D from a single viewpoint but I found it a highly enjoyable task.

I don’t know about running through the streets dressed in the most diabolical outfits you can create but it would be great if Brits would not be afraid to reintroduce a Bad Santa sometimes to help administer the naughty list for Saint Nicholas himself.

Krampus, 2017, full figure