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Rare and Sumptuous Eighteenth Century Shell Engravings

Posted by Lori Cohen, Gallery Director on


Franz Michael Regenfuss (1713-1780) produced one of the first and finest works on shells ever produced - Choix de Coquillages et de Crustaces. Printed in Copenhagen in 1758 his detailed and highly attractive illustrations were produced under the sponsorship of the King of Denmark. 

This was the largest format work on shells ever produced and the decorative arrangements of shells betray a compelling esthetic interest to complement the scientific intent of this collector's reference. The collecting of exotic seashells became a popular pastime among scientists and aristocrats in 18th-century Europe. Collectors vied for the most elaborate and exotic shells, imported from distant locales. Natural history artists followed this fashion, creating illustrated compendia of shells to aid in identification and classification of types and species. 

Printed in both French and German, Regenfuss's book was an immediate success, celebrated for its superb plates, which appealed to collectors of art as well as conchologists. Each splendid shell appears to emerge from the page with a quality of three dimensionality, a testament to the fineness of draftsmanship, engraving, and coloring. Overall, more care was lavished on the production of these plates than on any other shell illustrations, with magnificent results. A beautiful selection of these works are now available through Arader Galleries in Philadelphia. 

Please contact Gallery Director Lori Cohen at (215) 735-8811 with any questions.

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