The Stunning Mammal Illustrations from “Dictionnaire Universel D’histoire Naturelle“
Charles Dessalines D’ Orbigny’s 1849 “Dictionnaire Universel D’histoire Naturelle”. This universal dictionary of nature is regarded to have some of the finest examples of 19th Century natural history art. Here I have curated the best vintage animal prints from this seminal work.
Charles Dessalines D’ Orbigny’s, began with a medical career before turning to the natural sciences. In 1835, he became a naturalist assistant at the Natural History Museum in Paris and published scientific books and articles.
At the time that Orbigny wrote this dictionary to explain the study of natural history which was being structured into a true science of nature. The aim of which was to explore and explain the world as a whole. Natural science was subdivided into a series of major fields of study (zoology, geology, biology, astronomy, etc.), themselves subdivided into a multitude of specialties (ornithology, anatomy, paleontology, etc.).
The collection of animal prints here concentrates on the paintings and illustrations in the book that relate to zoology in particular mammalogy.
I think these prints would look fabulous framed and hung as a gallery wall in a kids room or even the classroom.
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The Vintage Animal Illustrations
Giraffes are the tallest land mammals and are found only in sub-Saharan Africa. Even though they are known for their long necks, their legs are so long that they can’t touch the ground with their heads. That is why you see giraffes with their legs awkwardly sprayed when drinking water. Lucky for them they only need to drink once every few days.
I love this beautiful vintage animal print of a giraffe in its natural habitat. If you look closely you can see more giraffes in the background.
The Chimpanzee is another sub-Saharan African mammal and one of the great apes. They are our closest living relative, sharing 98% of human DNA. The average life span of the chimpanzee in the wild is 33years but chimps in captivity have been known to live over 60 years.
The main difference between the African and Indian Elephants besides where they live is their ears. African elephants ears are much larger than those of the Indian elephant and are said to resemble in shape the |African continent.
Indian elephants are not just found in the Indian Subcontinent they are also found in these other Asian countries, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malay Peninsula, Laos, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam
As a child, I remember sitting on an Elephants knee in Sri Lanka and being quite surprised how prickly it was. It was like sitting on a very stiff scrubbing brush. I didn’t even know they had hairy knees.
Like with many of Charles D’ Orbigny’s vintage animal prints, it’s the details in the background that make them special. This print is no exception, with the temple and ceremonial elephants in the background.
Another mammal that is native to sub- Saharan Africa. The name hippopotamus derives from the ancient Greek word for “river horse”. Hippos are the third largest land mammals, after the elephant and rhino.
Even though they resemble rather large pigs, the hippo’s closest living relatives are whales and porpoises.
Rhinoceros means “nose horn”. Like the elephant, rhinos are native to both Africa and Asia. Despite their huge size and strength, rhinos don’t prey on other animals for food. They’re herbivores and eat mainly a grass-based diet.
The next illustration in this collection of vintage animal prints is that of a jaguar. When I first saw this painting I thought it was a leopard.
Leopards and Jaguars are very similar. However, jaguars are native to the Americas and Leopards are native to Africa and Asia. Jaguars are also larger and sturdier, they are the third largest wild cat species after lions and tigers.
The dromedary camel is also known as an Arabian Camel. The main difference between dromedary camels and other camels is that they have one hump and not two. Dromedary camels are the largest of all the camel species and are totally domesticated, there are no wild dromedary camels.
Known as “ships of the desert” as they have been used for thousands of years to transport goods. The camels can carry up to 600lbs on their backs and go for up to six months without food or water.
Brown bears are found all over the world. In North America, they are often referred to as “Grizzlies”. The bears are omnivorous and they have one of the greatest variety of foods in their diets of any animal in the world. Despite their size brown bears, are surprisingly fast, they can run up to 30mph.
Again another one of the vintage animal prints with interesting illustrations in the background. This time it’s a trio of cubs playing.
This is a gorgeous animal painting, showing a lioness feeding her three cubs. Lions typically have two to three cubs in a litter.
Lions are known as the “king of the jungle”, which is a bit of anomaly as they don’t live in the jungle. A lion’s habitats are the Savannah’s and grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa.
It is perhaps due to this reputation as the king of the jungle that the lion is one of the most widely used animal images. You will spot lion sculptures in front of many buildings all over the world (especially in China). A lion even features on national flags, such as the Sri Lankan flag. Lions are a feature in many paintings, contemporary films, and literature. The England football team even has three lions on their shirts.
Wild kangaroos are only found in Australia and are a national symbol of the country. There are estimated to be over 30 million kangaroos in the country.
Another mammal only found in Australia. Duck-billed platypi are the only mammals that lay eggs. They are also the strangest of looking mammals. When the first Platypus skin was brought back to the UK British scientists where sure it was a hoax, believing that a taxidermist had sewn a duck’s beak to the body of a beaver.
The white-face Capuchin monkey is a native of South America.
Don’t forget to check out these other fabulous copyright free animal prints.