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Animals, Art, Crabs, Albertus Seba, Set of 4 Framed Antique Prints, Amsterdam, 18th Century


Albertus Seba (1665-1736) (editor)
Pierre Tanje (1706-1761), A. van der Laan, F. de Bakker, et al. (engravers)
Plate 18, Tab. XVIII
Plate 20, Tab. XX
Plate 21, Tab. XXI
Plate 22, Tab. XXII
from Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio, et iconibus artificiosissimis expressio, per universam physices historiam
J. Wetsten, William Smith, Jansson-Waesberg et al., Amsterdam: 1734-1769
Hand-colored engraving
17.25 x 22 inches, plate mark
19.75 x 24 inches, overall
25.75 x 30 inches, framed
$7,800, set of 4

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Four prints, each displaying a basically symmetrical arrangement of crabs, shrimps, and marine arthropods of various sizes. The engravings combine scientific observation and aesthetic appreciation of the animals’ skin patterns and colors, textures, and elegantly curving forms. They are from the premiere 18th-century collector’s cabinet of natural history, assembled by Albertus Seba. Each is set in a faux-bamboo ebonized frame.

Product description continues below.


Seba, a wealthy Dutch apothecary and member of the Dutch East India Company, was one of the prototypical collectors of natural curiosities and exotic species. His collection ranged from the beautiful to the odd and bizarre. It included birds, reptiles such as lizards and snakes, butterflies and other insects, shells and exotic sea life, unusual mammals such as bats and anteaters, as well as exotic plants. The collection also included some fakes, intended to attract attention and interest, such as a seven-headed hydra.

Seba’s first collection was sold to Peter the Great in 1716 and became part of his Kunstkammer or Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg, a museum of rare natural history specimens. Seba’s second collection was illustrated and described in a set of engraved-plate volumes. Seba recruited artists, including Pierre Tanje, a Dutch engraver, to illustrate his thesaurus of animals. The plates are characterized by artistic arrangements of specimens, sometimes apocryphal in color or form. Some specimens are arranged by species, while other prints including bizarre juxtapositions of seemingly unrelated animals and plants. Seba wrote most of the text for the first two volumes that accompanied the engravings. Among his collaborators were many of the most noted scientists of the day, including H. Boerhaave, P. van Musschenbroek, P. Massuet, H. D. Graubius, and P. Artedi. After Seba’s death in 1736, shortly after publication had commenced, the second collection was auctioned to finance the continued publication of the catalogue. Actual specimens from Seba’s cabinet of curiosities are still in collections in St. Petersburg, and in natural history museums around the world.

Pierre Tanje, one of the engravers of Seba prints, was a Dutch printmaker and draftsman. A student of Jakob Folhema, he engraved portraits, history, natural history and genre subjects. He is known for his work on engravings of the Dresden Gallery.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning and wear. Vertical crease at central  fold, as issued. Frames very good with the usual light wear.


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