Amazing Rare Things

A new exhibition of nature drawings, paintings and renderings has just opened at Buckingham Palace. The event focuses around four artists and a collector (Leonardo da Vinci, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian and Mark Catesby) who lived from the mid 15th century to the late 18th. As an added bonus the exhibit, Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery, was a collaboration by curators of the Royal Collection and Sir David “Superfly” Attenborough.

The subjects of the works tend to be then-newly discovered species, many from the New World, which left more than a little to the artists’ imaginations. Thus in many of the pictures the artists have attempted to predict or imagine what the behavior of their subjects might have been. For example, take a look at this picture of a sloth by an unidentified artist in the 17th Century.

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Heeeeey, yoooou guuuuuuuys!!!

Obviously, the artist had not seen a live specimen before, as sloths are unable to walk with this posture, and their faces are not quite so grotesque. We give it a D minus.

And how about these…

…pictures depicting a human-like bear foot by Leonardo da Vinci and a crocodile wrestling a king snake by Maria Sibylla Merian.

i-1c336ee3553b9864f4a30f77ee5759e8-Bear Foot.jpg


Seriously Maria, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. And furthermore, was da Vinci implying that Jesus was married with kids, and that he was half human, half bear? We’re going to go ahead and say, “Yes. Definitely.”

And what about this picture by the famous 16th Century artist, Brandon Bird?
i-763ac1d689109154ca11fc972bec735c-Bad day on the high seas.jpg

No comment.

At any rate, the exhibition looks fascinating. To learn more about it and the featured artists go to the official website, or head over to Buckingham Palace between March 14th and September 21st, 2008.

Special thanks to Kevin Z at Deep Sea News for the heads up!


  1. #1 Jessica Palmer
    March 18, 2008

    This show was in Edinborough last year,and David Ateenborough wrote a great little article about it for the Telegraph. I love DA so much, I had to turn my post about the show into an Attenborough love-fest – did you see the NTA tribute to him? It’s wonderful.

  2. #2 Zelly
    March 18, 2008

    A lot of european artists had…interesting…depictions of animals from the New World. A lot of alligators were drawn with human hands and feet.

    Check out Copley’s famous painting “Watson and the Shark”.

    The sharks’s got elf ears.

  3. #3 Mo
    March 18, 2008

    I’ve got Attenborough’s book of the same name.

  4. #4 Alan Bleiman
    March 19, 2008

    Skin a bear and the hind feet have an uncanny resemblance to human feet – with 2 inch claws in the case of a black bear; 4 inches for Grizzlies). As for the King Snake (which can grow to 5 feet), little crocs have to eat also.

  5. #5 Corey
    March 19, 2008

    A crocodile wrestling a king snake: possibly more awesome than a ferocious gorilla ripping a snake in half?

  6. #6 Liesele
    March 19, 2008

    Hey, don’t laugh–it made the WashPost last year when someone found a skinned bear foot in the public waste stream–they actually printed articles about how it was thought to be positive proof of Bigfoot! Once someone finally checked, they realized it was a garden variety black bear specimen…unless the COVERUP continues.

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