Serpent D'Océan – Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, France - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, France

Serpent D'Océan

An aluminum skeleton brings Chinese mythology to the French shore. 

Stuck in a perpetual state of decay on the French shore at Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, this massive metal sculpture is a terrifying vision with an environmental message. The beast is posed in slithering movement despite being nothing more than bones, giving the dull metal frame an unsettlingly lifelike quality.

Entitled Serpent D’Océan, the skeletal sea serpent was unveiled in 2012 as part of the Estuaire art exhibition which invites international artists to create large-scale works using the environment surrounding the Loire River between Nantes to Saint-Nazaire. The work was created by Chinese-French artist Huang Yong Ping, who used the rough iconography of China’s mythological dragons to design the 400-foot-long art monster. 

The message behind the piece seems to be one of environmental nostalgia, as though man’s mistreatment of the oceans is killing not only its life, but its very wonder and fantasy. The serpent’s curves roughly mirror the twists and turns of the nearby Saint-Nazaire bridge linking the piece to the very modern progress it seems to be speaking on. However, the work is read, the aspect that is without debate is the menace projected by the fearfully undead snake.

Given its location on the shore, the Serpent D’Océan can be seen as a strangely living creature rising from the ocean waters or a purposefully preserved skeleton held above the shallow waves depending on the level of the tide upon a given visit. But despite the changing tides, fantasy, art, and horror have rarely been so steadfastly intertwined.