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Natural History Art, Monkeys, Mandrill and Rhesus, Antique Print Pair, 1801

$1,100

Nicolas Maréchal (after)
Simon Charles Miger (1736-1820) (engraver)
Comte de La Cépède, Georges Cuvier and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (authors)
Simia Maimon/Mormon, Lin./ Le Mandrill, Plate 23 [Mandrill]
Simia Rhesus/ Le Rhésus, Plate 33 [Rhesus Monkey]

from La Ménagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle ou Description et Histoire des Animaux Qui Y Vivent et Qui Y Ont Vécu
[The Menagerie of the National Museum of Natural History, or Description and History of the Animals That Live, or Have Lived, There]

Chez Miger and Ant. Aug. Renouard, Paris: 1801
Hand-colored etchings
8.5 x 14.5 inches, ruled border, Mandrill
10.5 x 16 inches, plate mark, Mandrill
10 x 14 inches, ruled border, Rhesus
11.75 x 15.5 inches, plate mark, Rhesus
13.5 x 20.25 inches, overall, both prints
$1,100, the pair

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Natural history monkey studies after paintings by Nicolas Maréchal, who was commissioned by the zoo affiliated with the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle to document the animals in its captivity. The monkeys are shown from the side with very few background details other than a ground plane — a hint of a distant landscape for the mandrill, and a tabletop and sprig of fruit for the rhesus. Maréchal depicted the animals for this scientific reference work in a realistic and highly detailed manner. A caption below the mandrill indicates that the scale is “Quart de la Grandeur,” i.e. one-quarter life size, while the rhesus monkey is labeled “Moitié de la Grandeur,” i.e. half actual size.

Product Description Continues Below

Description

In 1793, after the French Revolution, the former royal garden and collection became the Botanical Garden and the National Museum of Natural History. A zoo linked with the museum was also established, replacing the royal menagerie at Versailles. Until then, people had seen animals in traveling shows, where they were exhibited as curiosities. Traveling menageries were soon banned in Paris, ensuring a steady stream of visitors to the new zoo. The eminent naturalists La Cépède, Cuvier and Geoffroy compiled a catalog of the animals in the zoo in 1801. Nicolas Maréchal, the museum’s painter, documented the animals of the new zoo in watercolor paintings on vellum.

The engraver and co-publisher of this work was Simon Charles Miger (1736-1820), a French printmaker and member of the Royal Academy of Painting. The other publisher, Renouard, is identified on the title page of La Menagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle as a bookseller.

Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was a French naturalist, considered the father of comparative anatomy, who introduced the concept of phylum and is credited with almost single-handedly founding the discipline of vertebrate paleontology. In 1795 he came to Paris at the invitation of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, where he became a professor of animal anatomy and superintendent of the zoo at the Museum of Natural History. Cuvier’s comparisons improved and extended the Linnaean system of classification. He was recognized by being knighted and made a Baron and Peer of France. Bernard Germain Etienne de la Ville-sur-Illion, Comte de La Cépède was also a prominent naturalist, who dropped his title of “Count” after the Revolution. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844) was also a French naturalist whose ideas about evolution influenced later naturalists. He collaborated with Cuvier on five works on natural history, although their conceptions of evolutionary biology ultimately diverged.

Full title and publication information: La Ménagerie du Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle ou Description et Histoire des Animaux Qui Y Vivent et Qui Y Ont Vécu, Par Les CC. LaCépède, Cuvier et Geoffroy, Avec des Figures peintes, d’aprés Nature, par Maréchal, Peintre du Muséum, Gravés, avec l’agrément de l’Administration, A Paris, Chez Miger, Graveur, quai des Miramiones, no. 106; Et Ant. Aug. Renouard, Libraire, rue Saint-André-des-Arcs, no. 42.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, soft creases. Slight irregularities to outer edges, minor scattered foxing in margins, all can be matted out.

References:

“Étienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire.” University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/hilaire.html (25 March 2004).

“Georges Cuvier.” University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/cuvier.html (25 March 2004).

Additional information

Century

19th Century