One of my major interests is the illustration of fish and other sea animals as depicted in the 15th to the 18th centuries. Authors of natural history encyclopaedias include Gesner, Aldrovandi, Lycosthenes, Rondolet and Renard, and while they used the best illustrators available to them at the time, often the artist was drawing the animal from a very decayed specimen, or relying on a description from someone who may have seen the living animal, or they simply fell back on to using their imagination. Consequently many fish drawn in the 16th century are recognisable today, while others are delightful fantasies in both colour and form.
An example is this illustration of whales from Conrad Lycosthenes' Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum Chronicon... published in 1557, a chronological history of the known world from the Garden of Eden, through the birth of Christ, to the year of publication. This is a detail from a two page spread depicting the terrors of the seas.
I'm no artist, but I do enjoy having a go at redrawing some of the more fanciful marine life and I'll probably put some on this site when I get a bit more courage. I made some tiny books during 2006 with photos of baby Sophia for family members and some of my drawings for friends .
The Sunday Papers: 13
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