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Natural History Art, Sea Shells, Albertus Seba, Antique Print, Framed, Amsterdam, 18th Century


Albertus Seba (1665-1736) (editor)
Pierre Tanje (1706-1761), A. van der Laan, F. de Bakker, et al. (engravers)
Seashell Arrangement
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
28 x 32.5 inches framed

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A symmetrical arrangement of small seashells, forming a design of circles, rosettes and straight lines. The engraving combines scientific observation and aesthetic appreciation of the shells’ patterns, colors and elegant forms. This print is from the premiere 18th-century collector’s cabinet of natural history, assembled by Albertus Seba. Elegantly framed with an elaborate French mat.

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.  Frame very good with the usual overall light toning and wear.


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