Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery

Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery

by David Attenborough, Susan Owens, Martin Clayton, Rea Alexandratos
     
 

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A gorgeously illustrated volume devoted to the natural history drawings and watercolors of Leonardo da Vinci and other outstanding artists of the Age of Discovery

From the fifteenth century onwards, as European explorers sailed forth on grand voyages of discovery, their encounters with exotic plants and animals fanned intense scientific interest.

Overview


A gorgeously illustrated volume devoted to the natural history drawings and watercolors of Leonardo da Vinci and other outstanding artists of the Age of Discovery

From the fifteenth century onwards, as European explorers sailed forth on grand voyages of discovery, their encounters with exotic plants and animals fanned intense scientific interest. Scholars began to examine nature with fresh eyes, and pioneering artists transformed the way nature was seen and understood. In Amazing Rare Things, renowned naturalist and documentary-maker David Attenborough joins with expert colleagues to explore how artists portrayed the natural world during this era of burgeoning scientific interest.

The book focuses on an exquisite selection of natural history drawings and watercolors by Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian, and Mark Catesby, and from the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo—works all held in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. Attenborough and his coauthors offer lucid commentary on topics ranging from the 30,000-year history of human drawings of the natural world, to Leonardo’s fascination with natural processes, to Catesby’s groundbreaking studies that introduced Europeans to the plants and animals of North America. With 160 full color illustrations, this beautiful book will appeal to readers with interests that extend from art and science to history and nature.

Editorial Reviews

Susan P. Williams
Amazing Rare Things is a book to savor in your favorite chair…The sumptuous drawings and watercolors reproduced in this volume bear witness to the endeavors of Merian, Leonardo da Vinci and other artists who recorded the plants, animals and insects they observed with intensity. The accompanying prose bristles with detail…
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Beginning with Leonardo da Vinci, this historical overview of scientific illustrators between the late 1400s and the mid-1700s includes beautiful, intricate specimens from the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Natural History Museum, among others. Filmmaker Attenborough provides an introductory survey of the artistic representation of plants and animals through human history; succeeding chapters focus on five figures-four artists and one collector-none of whom is well known in either scientific or art history circles. Cassiano dal Pozzo proves an eager and curious antiquarian, a church functionary in Rome who amassed a remarkable collection of illustrations featuring everything from ancient Roman artifacts, minerals and fossils to newly discovered plants and animals. Stunning work by Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian and Mark Catesby capture plants and animals in their natural state, including dispatches from the New World and fauna newly arrived from foreign lands. Merian proves most fascinating, working in a time (the late 15th century) when women seldom left their homes, let alone traveled unattended to South America to draw insects and plants in the jungles of Dutch Surinam. A true feast for anyone interested in natural history, this marvelous book makes the underappreciated artworks of a passionate, talented group widely accessible. Color illus. (Aug.)

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Washington Post
“A book to savor . . . sumptuous . . . transcendent.”
Margaret Lowman

"Scientists often wonder who first illustrated biodiversity, and I imagine that artists often wonder about the chronology and development of accurate depictions of natural history. Amazing Rare Things is a welcome and long overdue integration of art and science.”—Margaret D. Lowman, author of It’s a Jungle Up There and Life in the Treetops

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300215724
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
09/29/2015
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
782,257
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author


David Attenborough, a pioneer of the nature documentary, has written and presented nine major television series on virtually every aspect of life on Earth. Susan Owens was formerly Assistant Curator of Paintings and Drawings for Royal Collection Trust and is now an independent art historian. Martin Clayton is Head of Prints and Drawings for Royal Collection Trust and Rea Alexandratos is Dal Pozzo Project Co-ordinator for Royal Collection Trust.

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