Franz Michael Regenfuss produced one of the first and finest works on shells ever produced. His detailed and highly attractive illustrations, delicately colored by his wife, were produced under the sponsorship of the King of Denmark. His splendid illustrations were part of the largest format work on shells ever produced, and certainly one of the most beautiful, as 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 ever more 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.
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