Louis Renard’s “Fanciful Fish”
I came across this work when I was looking for vintage art to
digitize for my embroidery machine … what little I read about
him absolutely fascinated me …
Louis Renard (c1678-1746) was a publisher in Holland  who
also sold medicines, brokered English bonds and if that wasn’t
enough he was also a spy for the British Crown under Queen Anne,
George I and George II and he didn’t try to hide that fact either …
he openly used it to his advantage.
Samuel Fallours was the artist commissioned by the Dutch East
India Company to document the marine life in the east indies
waters … various people brought his art to Louis Renard to publish
between 1708 and 1715.   Well this is where the story gets
interesting … Renard felt compelled to embellish them  and
added to some of the fish:  hearts, moons, stars, suns and even
a potted plant and a human face … and embellished the colors as well …
Renard published a 2 volume collection of Fallours’ art …
a total of 460 engraved illustrations, printed
from a hundred copper plates, 415 fish, 41 crustaceans,
two stick-insects, one Indian
dugong and one mermaid.
Well this story only gets stranger …  Fallours mentions other
eyebrow-raising facts. In the description of the Sambia or
frog fishes  he claims: ‘I kept the animal for
three days in my house: it followed me everywhere, just like a
small dog.’ And of the mermaid mentioned before
is written that she was caught on the isle of Boeroe or Buru near
Ambon. In Fallours’ house the mermaid had lived for four days,
and seven hours in a container of water. With regular intervals
she squeaked like a mouse. Finally she died of starvation because
she refused to eat ...  you gotta love it
Well the icing on the cake was after Renard published the 2 volume collection
of all this information the public reaction was severely critical
… but I am glad he did it because it makes me wonder if he
 had not done all this would we even be aware of this
interesting collection.
There is loads of information online about all this and each site
seems to offer some interesting tidbit as well …
These designs mean so much to me.  To digitize art that is over
300 years old is so rewarding …    

Louis Renard Fanciful Fish

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