Batavia Journal

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Batavia Journal

VOC warship, whale & trident

eccentric sketches of indigenous Asian people

Chinese man & woman in costume and knight in armor

17th century musician trio from India

2 natives with severed head

cannibal natives cooking human

mermaid, squid and toothed cat

whale sketch

snakes and frog drawing

frilled lizard and zebra

bat and snake

bat with tail and canine

eccentric dog-fish, porcupine & black bird

cassowary, ostrich & pelican sketches

cockatoo, penguin, parrot & long-beaked bird

rambutan & melon-like tropical fruit

drawing of coconut tree & coconut

papaya tree and cut papaya fruit

red, yellow & green chilli pods & bamboo plant

windmill, military & musical instrument coat of arms

☼☼ Click through any picture for a greatly enlarged version. All the images have been extensively background cleaned according to the "less is more" and "when in doubt, don't" philosophies of restoration. ☼☼

These extraordinary illustrations come from one of two journals kept by a German recruit to the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Jörg Franz Müller was a gunsmith from Alsace who enlisted as a midshipman aboard VOC vessels that sailed between Europe and Batavia [in Indonesia] from 1669 to 1682.

The imaginative renderings of peoples, animals and plants from Asia and Africa make up for their lack of strict accuracy with an endearing naive style. It's likely that Müller had at least seen (if not attempted to reproduce drawings remembered from) some earlier natural history works containing fanciful creatures. Although there is little around in english online about this work, there is mention of Müller being aboard vessels taking exotic creatures in cages back to Holland, so he definitely had access to specimens.

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