Article ID: CBB000932056

Secrecy, Ostentation, and the Illustration of Exotic Animals in Sixteenth-Century Portugal (2009)


During the first decades of the sixteenth century, several animals described and viewed as exotic by the Europeans were regularly shipped from India to Lisbon. This paper addresses the relevance of these 'new' animals to knowledge and visual representations of the natural world. It discusses their cultural and scientific meaning in Portuguese travel literature of the period as well as printed illustrations, charts and tapestries. This paper suggests that Portugal did not make the most of its unique position in bringing news and animals from Asia. This was either because secrecy associated with trade and military interests hindered the diffusion of illustrations presented in Portuguese travel literature or because the illustrations commissioned by the nobility were represented on expensive media such as parchments and tapestries and remained treasured possessions. However, the essay also proposes that the Portuguese contributed to a new sense of the experience and meaning of nature and that they were crucial mediators in access to new knowledge and new ways of representing the natural world during this period.


Description “Addresses the relevance of these “new” animals to knowledge and visual representations of the natural world.” (from the abstract)

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Authors & Contributors
Pantin, Isabelle
Bedini, Silvio A.
Pyle, Cynthia Munro
LoTufo, Ilaria
Quilley, Geoff
Bonehill, John
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Sudhoffs Archiv: Zeitschrift fuer Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Science in Context
Yale University Press for the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
National Library of Australia
Palgrave Macmillan
Yale University Press
Cambridge University Press
Visual representation; visual communication
Travel; exploration
Science and art
Scientific illustration
Restif de la Bretonne, Nicolas Édme
Dürer, Albrecht
Bry, Theodor de
Gesner, Konrad
Zeppelin, Ferdinand von
Time Periods
16th century
18th century
15th century
17th century
Early modern
Great Britain
Rome (Italy)

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