[Album of six watercolor views in Kamchatka and Siberia in the late 18th century].

[Netherlands?]: [circa 1808].

Price: $30,000.00


About the item

Six watercolors on individual sheets, measuring approx. 10-1/2 x 16-1/4 inches. Five of the six watercolors titled in manuscript below the image, and with extensive Dutch-language notes on the verso of each sheet. Oblong folio. Bound into modern half morocco and marbled boards (oblong quarto in size), gilt morocco label on front board reading: KAMTSCHATKA ET SIBERIE ALBUM DE DESSINS. Very minor wear or soiling in the edges of the margins, else fine.

Item #365162

An atlas of splendid watercolors by an unknown artist, showing scenes in Kamchatka and Siberia in the late 18th century. The paintings are quite well done. While the artist's facility for drawing human figures is not of the highest magnitude, his ability in rendering places, topography, and villages is excellent. The identity of the artist is unknown, but it seems likely that he was a Dutchman of some means who owned or had access to a collection of the most important accounts of 18th-century travel in eastern Russia and the Kamchatka peninsula. The watercolors show scenes of village and seaside life as originally depicted in the plates to the travels of Cook, Sarychev, and Chappe D'Auteroche, which all took place between 1760 and 1795. Though undated, a manuscript note on the verso of the final watercolor carries the date of 1808, and likely indicates when one or all of these images were painted.

The images contained in this atlas are faithful, detailed, and accomplished watercolor renderings of printed plates from the atlas to James Cook's third voyage; the atlas to the voyage of Gavrila Sarychev; and the account of Jean Chappe D'Auteroche's travels to Siberia in the early 1760s. The artist has taken great care to retain interesting ethnographic details from the original sources, showing details of clothing and decoration as well as animals, dwellings (from thatched huts to wooden structures), buildings, churches, sleds, and local boats and canoes. Two of the images feature fishing scenes, and all but one of them shows a locations near a river or the sea. The interest and usefulness of the album is further heightened by the extensive manuscript notes in Dutch on the verso of each view. In some cases the notes give details of the source of an illustration, but they also provide information about the region depicted, the people who live there, the natural resources and topography, and much more. Further study of the album could lead to more information about the artist and the circumstances of its creation.

The illustrations (with their original manuscript captions) are as follows:
1) "Gericht der stad Bolcheretskoi in Kamtschatka en ein Man, Reirende in en Winter." This winter scene in Kamchatka is a combination of two plates from the atlas to Cook's voyages, "A Man of Kamtschatka Travelling in Winter" and "A View at Bolcheretzkoi in Kamtschatka." It shows a small village of wooden buildings with thatched roofs, while a family of natives, bundled against the cold, stand in the foreground. Two cows are shown in a pen, and farm dogs and sled dogs mill about.
2) "Gerigt van de Stad en Haven van St. Petrus en St. Paulus aan Kamtschatka." This image copies a plate from the atlas to Cook's voyages entitled "A View of the Town and Harbour at St. Peter and St. Paul, in Kamtschatka." An interesting scene of a small fishing village, featuring a group of men casting large nets and other groups in canoes. Larger sailing vessels are in the water in the background, and snow-capped peaks are seen in the distance. In the left foreground are a native husband and wife, with an infant strapped to the woman's back.
3) "Gericht der Stad Tobolsk, in Siberien." Copies a plate from Chappe D'Auteroche's VOYAGE EN SIBERIE (Paris, 1768). A very nice and well-done scene of a largish seaside town, with several whitewashed buildings with tall spires along the waterfront and on a cliff. Workers are shown storing casks of goods by the waterside.
4) "Gericht der Vesting auf Sterkte Sueden - Kolymsk en der Rivier Kolyma." This image copies a plate from the atlas to Sarychev's voyage, PUTESHESTVIE FLOTA KAPITANA SARYCHEVA... (St. Petersburg, 1802). An attractive scene of a small village of wooden buildings in a waterside setting. This scene is most interesting for the details of the structures, including a Russian Orthodox Church.
5) Untitled. This is a version of the Cook atlas plate titled "Summer and Winter Habitations, in Kamtschatka." This interesting scene gives great details of the dwellings used in Kamchatka. Located along a river, they are built on stilts so as to withstand floods.
6) "Gericht van de Sterkte (of Vesting) Werchue - Koymsk, en van de Rivier Jasjaschna." This image copies a plate from the atlas to Sarychev's voyage, PUTESHESTVIE FLOTA KAPITANA SARYCHEVA... (St. Petersburg, 1802). Another view of a small fishing village, with men casting nets at the shoreline, a mid-size sailing ship in the water, and a small group of one- and two-story buildings on the shore opposite.

A very interesting suite of watercolors, showing evocative scenes of village life in Siberia and Kamchatka at the time when European explorers were first visiting that remote area.