Author Potter P. Paul. Potter delineavit ad vivum. [Jaguars]
Published 1650
Item ID 72598
(Excl. 9% VAT)
[Amsterdam], Nicolaes Visscher, ca. 1650. Oblong folio (18.6 x 24.2 cm). Title page, and seven other engravings (each measuring ca. 14 x 17 cm), numbered 1-8 in the lower right corner outside the printed frame. Later blind quarter vellum over marbled boards. A complete suite - with wide margins - of eight lively images of quite probably the same individual jaguar ( Panthera onca ), a species native to South and Central America. Potter’s drawings of this species have often been misidentified as those of a leopard ( Panthera pardus ), see e.g. the British Museum Collection database. Indeed, the leopard seems a more likely candidate, being found in Africa and Eurasia, however, although the figured animal resembles the Persian or Caucasian subspecies in having widely spaced rosettes, the inclusion of spots within the rosettes clearly shows that this is a New World animal. Moreover, it is far more likely that Potter (1625-1654; a contemporary of Rembrandt and Vermeer, who died at the age of 28 from tuberculosis) saw a specimen imported from Brazil than one from the Iranian region, as the first Dutch West India Company (1621-1674) was busy exploring Brazil - trading with north-western Asia at that time was minimal. Potter himself never visited Brazil. Piso and Marcgrave, in their Historia naturalis Brasiliae (Leiden, 1648), figured the same species, but far more sketchily, as if they had never seen it alive and nearby. Potter’s images seem to be the first accurate renderings, after nature, of this impressive animal, showing its behaviour. Potter was a favourite of the Dutch prince Johan Maurits van Nassau (vide Benezit), who at that time was the first governor-general of Brazil and responsible for sending Piso and Marcgrave there in search of useful herbs, spices and other natural resources. Boeseman, pp. 115-116, noted that one year earlier, the Dutch scholar Caspar van Baerle or Barlaeus (1647) - who compiled a book on Dutch Brazil and his activities as governor - basing his comments on the available archives (including numerous animal and plant pictures to be used by De Laet for the Historia) and oral information, mentioned “Large number of Tijgers [tigers] which with their ferocity increased by hunger and by their speed are feared by the population." To which Boeseman (1994) added: “The name Tiger, used for the larger carnivores, here probably refers to the jaguar ( Panthera onca (Linnaeus)), described and figured, with the indigenous vernacular name jaguara, by Marcgrave (in Piso & Marcgrave, 1648: 235). The puma ( Puma concolor (Linnaeus)), with the indigenous vernacular name cugua-curana (Marcgrave, in Piso & Marcgrave, 1648: 235) is also known as tiger, but probably less feared by the population”. The puma, however, is not spotted. These are the earliest recordings of South American jaguars and (near) contemporaneous with Potter's drawings. The images were engraved by the highly esteemed artist Marcus de Bye [or de Bije] (1612-1670)., in advertising ‘ The illustrated Bartsch’, uses the 7th plate of this suite as an example, underscoring the importance of the suite. Title leaf rather soiled; nearly all other plates with only an occasional spot and generally clean, and all with strong impressions. In all, an attractive suite. Small repair to last plate margin. Bartsch, 41-8; Benezit 6, pp. 779-780; Boeseman, A hidden early source of information on Brazilian zoology , Zoölogische Mededelingen , Leiden 68; Hollstein 46 II. Not noted by Sabin. The first accurate illustration of a jaguar, by a famous Dutch artist