The first complete and interdisciplinary illustrated work on the fascinating relation between man and animals in art and literature from antiquity to the modern age. Regarded as only secondary and marginal actors in historical representations, animals have long been confined to the sphere of anecdotes and considered a trivial theme unworthy to be explored in any detail. “Animals are good to think with”: with this saying soon destined to become famous, in 1962 Claude Lévi-Strauss for the first time bestowed dignity on the theme. Only in the mid-1980s, however, did animals fully enter the various fields of historical enquiry – be it in relation to social, material, economic, cultural, religious or symbolic history. This volume, published for a large exhibition organized by the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, brings together twenty-five contributions by psychologists, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, art critics and communications experts, exploring the relation between man and animals through its various and complex interactions, with particular attention towards artistic and literary representations. As protagonists or secondary actors, animals and imaginary creatures are often charged with a symbolic or allegorical function. An investigation of this function and its meaning in the main Western cultures between antiquity and the modern age, the way these changed in the transition from one age to another, and the reasons leading to their emergence constitute the central themes explored in this volume. Il Bello e la Bestia. Tiere zwischen Mythos und Realität is richly illustrated with works – both famous and little known ones – from prestigious European museums: the Bibliothéque nationale in Paris, the Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna; the Museo nazionale del Bargello and Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and the Swiss National Museum in Zurich.