Amazing Rare Things is enthralling, with elegant natural history drawings from the British Royal Collection married to beautiful prose.The Royal Collection, held at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, has been shaped by the personal tastes of kings and queens for more than five hundred years. The Collection’s exquisite natural history artworks in Amazing Rare Things is supplemented by an introduction and commentary from Sir David Attenborough. This exploration of the natural world from the late fifteenth century to the early eighteenth century represents a period when European knowledge of the world was transformed by voyages of discovery to the farthest reaches of Africa, Asia, America, and beyond. Included are works by Leonardo da Vinci and other foremost artists and collectors of their time who embraced the natural riches of their ever-expanding world and whose legacies help us better understand today our continuing relationship with the natural world.
Susan Owens co-curates the world-class drawings of the Royal Collection.
Sir David Attenborough’s career as a pioneer documentary filmmaker and advocate for understanding the natural world spans more than fifty years, including his recent film, Planet Earth.
Starred Review. 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 are 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 illustrations.
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