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BALENA COMUNE Balena Mysticetus

Date: c 1800
Dimensions:
Overall: 485 x 580 mm, 277 g
Medium: Ink on paper, card
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00019688

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    Description
    This print depicts a stranded Bowhead whale in an Arcitic environment being approached by a group of whalers. The popular fiberous material of Baleen can be seen in the whales open mouth. A whale in the background is being hunted by whalers in an open boat.
    SignificanceThis print is an important record of early 19th century European natural history illustrations, and demonstrates the unfolding scientific knowledge of whales. Although published in a 'Zoological Atlas', it is interesting to note that this whale is depicted in the context of whaling.
    HistoryEuropean scientific knowledge of whales was a slowly evolving process. Whales were commonly sighted along the European coasts and occasionally seen stranded, however early published illustrations of the animal show a mythical monster-like creature - sometimes depicted with horns spouting water. Many artists did not draw from life, using 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. The rise of the natural sciences in the 18th century saw a shift from mythical to scientific depictions of whales.

    The late 18th century European voyages of discovery pushed beyond the existing fringes of European settlement, and explored unknown lands beyond established sea routes. These voyages excited the scientific community with the documentation of exotic or previously unknown species. Naturalists, landscape artists, natural history artists and field assistants accompanied explorers on these voyages. The artists produced thousands of sketches and paintings of both plants and animals, from sea and land.

    As a result of these explorations, there was an enormous increase in the publication of scientific writings describing the animals and plants encountered on the voyages. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries numerous comprehensive and beautifully illustrated natural history compilations were published in Europe.

    This print featured in 'Atlante Zoologico Popolare, opera Compilata Sui Più Recenti Lavori di Zoologia Italiani e Stranieri' (Popular Zoological Atlas, A Work Compiled from the Most Recent Works of Italian and Foreign Zoology) which was published in eight volumes by Giovanni Boschi in Italy between 1863 and 1879. The eight volumes comprises natural history illustrations of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, insects and butterflies and marine life. A range of common or domestic European animals are depicted, including pigs, as well as exotic animals, such as the Australian platypus.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Balena mysticetus, beached Bowhead whale

    Primary title: BALENA COMUNE Balena Mysticetus

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