ROBERT (1614 - 1685)
A Black-Footed Ferret
Watercolor and gouache, on prepared vellum with gold border (314 by 297mm;
12-5/8 x 11-3/4 in.)
Nicolas Robert, the foremost natural history artist of 17th-century Europe,
is acclaimed for his watercolors executed on fine prepared vellum, the vast
majority of which are preserved in the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle,
Paris. There they form a nucleus of the celebrated Collection des Vélins
started by Gaston d'Orleans at Blois and continued by his nephew and
heir, Louis XIV. Robert was assigned a studio at the Invalides by Colbert
and appionted Peintre Ordinaire de Sa Majesté pour les miniatures
in Louis XIV's early reign. The choice of vellum, a most demanding medium
which allows no mistake, is indicative of Colbert's influence in the matter.
Although a large number of vélins
by Robert depicting birds
and botanicals have survived, far fewer representations of animals are known.
Robert may have studied this subject among the exotic animals of the Ménagerie
royale de Versailles. See Y. Laissus, "Sciences naturelles," Collections
de Louis XIV: dessins, albums, manuscripts
(Editions des musées
nationaux, 1977), ch. VI, pp. 302-7.
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