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Friday 23 December 2016

Antonio Tempesta’s 17th century illustration of a hippopotamus

Antonio Tempesta (1555?–1630)
“Hippopotamus”, c.1630
Engraving on fine laid paper with narrow margins attached with paper hinges (verso) to a support sheet.
Size: (irregularly cut sheet) 10.8 x 14.7cm; (plate) 9.5 x 13.6 cm  
Inscribed below the image borderline: (left) “Hippopotamus”; (right) “Hipopolam[o?]”

Condition: well-inked and crisp impression with margins in very good condition. There is a irregular spot (either a stain or restoration) behind the closer front foot of the animal.

I am selling this very early and fabulous illustration of a hippopotamus—a fanciful concoction of second-hand misinformation like Durer’s famous woodcut of a rhinoceros—for the total cost of AU$328 (currently US$235.03/EUR225/GBP191.91 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this natural history print of the utmost rarely, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
This print has been sold

There is very little that needs to be said about this print. It is so delightful and such a perfect example of why an artist should try to draw from personal observations and experience rather than rely on second-hand information that may be flawed.

Beyond the chuckle of seeing a hippo portrayed as a long haired, long toed, beaver-tailed, rodent-like critter, what I love about this print is the care that Tempesta has taken in rendering all the details. For instance, the brick-like pattern of scales featured in the animal’s tail is so well-handled that the tail looks like it has been mechanically milled. Note also the care that Tempesta has taken to ensure that the left and right extremities of the creature lightly touch the image borderline. Care has also been taken in the treatment of the foliage-like pattern on the ground. For me the little leaf shapes of the ground-cover resemble small footprints left by the hippo.

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