A unique collection of 750 exquisite watercolours of animals, birds and plants from the late Renaissance period from TEFAF is to be exhibited at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The Natural History Paper Museum of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II was one of the most extraordinary items on offer at this year’s TEFAF and dates from the late Renaissance period. The albums were purchased by a private collector from Antiquariat Bibermuehle AG Heribert Tenschert for a seven figure sum and will be on long term loan to the museum. Compiled between 1596 and 1610 as a compendium of zoology and botany—a Historia Naturalis—by Rudolph II’s court physician, Anselmus de Boodt they have remained together for four centuries. The watercolours are still pristine.
From common domestic and farmyard animals like dogs, cats, horses and cattle to exotic creatures such as the ostrich, walrus and porcupine and extinct ones such as the dodo and even a dragon ‘drawn from life’, the compendium offers a glimpse of the range of plants, animals and birds believed to exist at the dawn of the Dutch Golden Age. Although De Boodt aimed to supply a faithful ‘scientific’ reproduction of each living thing, the animal illustrations in particular have a lively, humorous air that sets them apart from earlier models.
The general director at the Rijksmuseum Taco Dibbits said: “This was the absolute sensation at TEFAF. Rarely, if ever does something come on the market that was made for Emperor Rudolph II. The colours are particularly fresh, which makes the drawings lively and attractive to the eye. It’s great that a private collector has made it possible for everyone to admire them.”