Are armadillos ungulates?


Armadillos, probably by Lambert Lombard

We continue with another blog post about the research by art historian Marrigje Rikken into depiction of animals in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This drawing shows two armadillos; American animals, unknown to Europeans before the 16th century.

According to Ms Rikken, the drawing is probably by Walloon artist Lambert Lombard (1506/1566).

Now, another sixteenth century depiction of an armadillo (and three other animals).

It is by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder (c. 1520 – c. 1590) from Flanders.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, 'ungulate' animals

It depicts four animals. From left to right: a giraffe; an armadillo; a sheep and an unicorn.

Ms Rikken said about this picture:

This engraving with four animals, I found in a not really accessible collection, it was a key work for me. I have used this image as front and back pictures of my thesis. Why did Gheeraerts want to combine especially these animals? And why are so they static, all in side? This was done deliberately, I think. All animals are depicted as ungulates, and that makes this picture a contribution to science.

The first encyclopedias were still not sure about the format: should they be in alphabetical order, or did the animals have to be gathered in groups? This is the first image in which even-toed ungulates are grouped together and in that Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder was ahead of the science of his time. Not in every respect by the way: about unicorns we do not know whether they are even-toed ungulates, and armadillos are certainly not – as we see in the [drawing] by Lombard. But the idea about how animals are related was already there.”

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