Discovering New Worlds

In 1700, Amsterdam was the epicentre of global trade. Ships of the Dutch East India Company returned to port laden with fine spices, exotic foods, delicate porcelain and rare metals from China, India and South-East Asia.

The company’s ships also brought a host of strange animals, mostly as dried skins or as specimens preserved in alcohol. The profusion of discoveries stimulated new ways of understanding and ordering nature, and an artist’s skill was needed to document the exotic creatures and re-create their imagined lives.

Questions for the classroom

Humanities Inquiry
What role did the Dutch East India Company play in the development of world Trade?

What was their primary focus?

Science Inquiry
What sorts of specimens were collected?

Why were these specimens collected?

Arts Inquiry
Etchings were commonly used to produce the illustrated Science books of the 18th and 19th century.

Investigate the process of etching, linear perspective and naturalism in art.