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Histoire Naturelle; 1. La Baleine, 2. Le Cachalot, 3. Le Narwal. (Natural History; 1. Baleen whale, 2. Sperm Whale, 3. Narwhal.

Date: 1768
Dimensions:
Overall: 398 x 255 mm, 0.05 kg
Medium: Engraving on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00029933
Place Manufactured:France

User Terms

    Description
    This black and white engraving depicts a Baleen Whale, Sperm Whale and Narwhal, all spouting water from their blowholes. These drawings have a number of anatomical mistakes, including the misshapen mouth of the Baleen whale and the incorrect placement of the Sperm whales eye. It was one of a number of illustrated natural history engravings in Diderot's French encyclopedia.
    SignificanceThis print is representative of 18th century natural history drawings and demonstrates the unfolding knowledge of whales.
    HistoryKnowledge of whales by European culture and science was an evolving process. The earliest drawings of the animal show a mythical monster-like creature with horns spouting water. Natural history artists were largely unable to draw from life and instead used descriptions given by explorers, scientists and publishers. Many of their works were copied from earlier drawings and offered only slightly different interpretations of the previous studies. By the 19th century artists were increasingly providing more faithful depictions and moving away from the mythical depiction of whales.

    Denis Diderot's 'Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers' (Encyclopedia of the sciences, arts, and crafts) was first published in 1751 and is a famous piece of French enlightenment work. It was part of the 18th century thought process to question accepted traditions and provide knowledge to the wider population.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Histoire Naturelle; 1. La Baleine, 2. Le Cachalot, 3. Le Narwal. (Natural History; 1. Baleen whale, 2. Sperm Whale, 3. Narwhal.

    Web title: Histoire Naturelle; 1. La Baleine, 2. Le Cachalot, 3. Le Narwal. (Natural History; 1. Baleen whale, 2. Sperm Whale, 3. Narwhal.

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