Travel and Nature
 “In the gallery of curiosities is a fair mummy; the tail of a sea-horse; coral growing on a man’s skull; a chariot automaton; two pieces of rock crystal, in one of which is a drop of water, in the other three or four small worms; two embalmed children; divers petrifactions, etc.”     - John Evelyn. The Diary of John Evelyn 1645, p. 182 Art and nature are deeply entwined during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as an increased desire for realistic depictions of the natural world arose with Renaissance and Baroque art.  In 1515, the German artist Dürer created a woodcut which exemplified this fascination.  Dürer’s Rhinoceros, as it is often referred to, depicts a rhinoceros based purely off a written account that the artist read and a sketch of a rhinoceros that arrived in Lisbon that same year (fig.1).  Without having seen the creature in the flesh, his rhinoceros is both accurate and not.  At first glance, it appears correct, with the general shape, including horn, head, and body shape reminiscent to that of a real rhinoceros.  Upon closer inspection, the flaws appear.  Dürer’s rhinoceros appears like a knight of old, it’s skin composed of what looks like plates of armour, complete with breastplate and gorget.  It is only because of the circulation of knowledge and travel narratives that Dürer was able to attempt this depiction, as a rhino had not been seen in Europe before the one that visited Lisbon.  Dürer’s rhinoceros would be the go-to depiction for Europeans until the artworks featuring Clara the rhinoceros in the eighteenth century (fig. 2).    These inaccurate depictions of animals would have caused problems for those trying to identify the various tusks and skeletons in their collections, possibly contributing to the occasional claim of possessing a unicorn horn in their Cabinet.  Dürer’s original woodcut ended up in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, whose Cabinet of Curiosities is primarily in the possession of the British Museum. 1  Some of the surviving Curiosity Cabinets contain creatures that are claimed to be basilisk, chimera, and other fantastical creatures.  As scientific study progressed, these creatures would become like those in a circus freak show: entertaining, strange, but ultimately a joke to those who saw them. Sir Hans Sloane appears to have understood the necessity to collect depictions and specimens of animals, as he added and re-ordered illustrations for his collection throughout his life. 2   It was because of collections like his that many a claim of possessing a giant’s tooth was busted. 3   Sloane himself travelled and kept accounts of his adventures, particularly that of his voyage to Jamaica.  The methods of collecting changed during the seventeenth century.  It became more highly marketed, as seen in Niccolo Serpetro 1653 book titled Marketplace of Natural Marvels, which was set up like a marketplace and each chapter consisted of purchasing an object. 4  Collectors no longer primarily relied upon receiving objects as gifts or travelling to purchase curiosities.  If a collector wanted a creature or object of nature, all they needed to do was go to a market where they could find sellers with exotic creatures readily available, for a price. 5   The British traveller John Evelyn ventured to Isle du Palais in Paris on February 2, 1644, where he visited such an establishment.  “Here is a shop called NOAH'S ARK, where are sold all curiosities, natural or artificial, Indian or European, for luxury or use, as cabinets, shells, ivory, porcelain, dried fishes, insects, birds, pictures, and a thousand exotic extravagances.” 6   A wealthy person, interested in starting a collection but lacking the time or interest to travel even as far as a marketplace, could purchase a premade Curiosity Cabinet. Like Documentaries? The Renassance Unchained, a four-part BBCseries hosted byWaldemar Januszczak. __________________________________________________ 1 Albrecht Dürer,“Rhinoceros,” British Museum, accessed November 20, 2017, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1344252&partId=1. 2 Jill Cook, “The Elephant in the collection: Sloane and the history of the earth,” in From Books to Bezors: Hans Sloane and his Collections, Eds. Walker, Alison, Arthur MacGregor, and Michael Hunter (London: The British Library, 2012), 163. 3 Cook, “Elephant in the Collection,” 164. 4 Pamela H. Smith, and Paula Findlen, eds, “Inventing Nature: Commerce, Art, and Science in the Early Modern Cabinet of Curiosities,” in Merchants & Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe (New York: Routledge, 2002), 297. 5 Smith, “Inventing Nature,” 299. 6 John Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray (London: M. Walter Dunne, 1901), 76. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/41218/41218-h/41218-h.htm
 Dürer’s rhinoceros, 1515. Portrait of Clara in Paris in 1749, by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Travel and Nature
  Dürer’s rhinoceros, 1515 Portrait of Clara in Paris in 1749, by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.
 “In the gallery of curiosities is a fair mummy; the tail of a sea-horse; coral growing on a man’s skull; a chariot automaton; two pieces of rock crystal, in one of which is a drop of water, in the other three or four small worms; two embalmed children; divers petrifactions, etc.”     - John Evelyn. The Diary of John Evelyn 1645, p. 182 Art and nature are deeply entwined during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as an increased desire for realistic depictions of the natural world arose with Renaissance and Baroque art.  In 1515, the German artist Dürer created a woodcut which exemplified this fascination.  Dürer’s Rhinoceros, as it is often referred to, depicts a rhinoceros based purely off a written account that the artist read and a sketch of a rhinoceros that arrived in Lisbon that same year (fig.1).  Without having seen the creature in the flesh, his rhinoceros is both accurate and not.  At first glance, it appears correct, with the general shape, including horn, head, and body shape reminiscent to that of a real rhinoceros.  Upon closer inspection, the flaws appear.  Dürer’s rhinoceros appears like a knight of old, it’s skin composed of what looks like plates of armour, complete with breastplate and gorget.  It is only because of the circulation of knowledge and travel narratives that Dürer was able to attempt this depiction, as a rhino had not been seen in Europe before the one that visited Lisbon.  Dürer’s rhinoceros would be the go-to depiction for Europeans until the artworks featuring Clara the rhinoceros in the eighteenth century (fig. 2).    These inaccurate depictions of animals would have caused problems for those trying to identify the various tusks and skeletons in their collections, possibly contributing to the occasional claim of possessing a unicorn horn in their Cabinet.  Dürer’s original woodcut ended up in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, whose Cabinet of Curiosities is primarily in the possession of the British Museum. 1  Some of the surviving Curiosity Cabinets contain creatures that are claimed to be basilisk, chimera, and other fantastical creatures.  As scientific study progressed, these creatures would become like those in a circus freak show: entertaining, strange, but ultimately a joke to those who saw them. Sir Hans Sloane appears to have understood the necessity to collect depictions and specimens of animals, as he added and re-ordered illustrations for his collection throughout his life. 2   It was because of collections like his that many a claim of possessing a giant’s tooth was busted. 3   Sloane himself travelled and kept accounts of his adventures, particularly that of his voyage to Jamaica.  The methods of collecting changed during the seventeenth century.  It became more highly marketed, as seen in Niccolo Serpetro 1653 book titled Marketplace of Natural Marvels, which was set up like a marketplace and each chapter consisted of purchasing an object. 4  Collectors no longer primarily relied upon receiving objects as gifts or travelling to purchase curiosities.  If a collector wanted a creature or object of nature, all they needed to do was go to a market where they could find sellers with exotic creatures readily available, for a price. 5   The British traveller John Evelyn ventured to Isle du Palais in Paris on February 2, 1644, where he visited such an establishment.  “Here is a shop called NOAH'S ARK, where are sold all curiosities, natural or artificial, Indian or European, for luxury or use, as cabinets, shells, ivory, porcelain, dried fishes, insects, birds, pictures, and a thousand exotic extravagances.” 6   A wealthy person, interested in starting a collection but lacking the time or interest to travel even as far as a marketplace, could purchase a premade Curiosity Cabinet. ________________________________________________ 1 Albrecht Dürer,“Rhinoceros,” British Museum, accessed November 20, 2017, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection _object_details.aspx?objectId=1344252&partId=1. 2 Jill Cook, “The Elephant in the collection: Sloane and the history of the earth,” in From Books to Bezors: Hans Sloane and his Collections, Eds. Walker, Alison, Arthur MacGregor, and Michael Hunter (London: The British Library, 2012), 163. 3 Cook, “Elephant in the Collection,” 164. 4 Pamela H. Smith, and Paula Findlen, eds, “Inventing Nature: Commerce, Art, and Science in the Early Modern Cabinet of Curiosities,” in Merchants & Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe (New York: Routledge, 2002), 297. 5 Smith, “Inventing Nature,” 299. 6 John Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray (London: M. Walter Dunne, 1901), 76. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/41218/41218-h/41218-h.htm