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Albert Eckhout, Study of Two Brazilian Tortoises, c. 1640

One of the artists in Johan Maurits’s entourage was Albert Eckhout. Eckhout recorded the Brazilian people, flora and fauna in drawings and paintings. Like these two red-footed tortoises with their scaly heads, shells with geometric patterns and mouths full of sharp teeth. Eckhout painted them on paper.

The animals are grunting threateningly at each other, as the males do during the breeding season. But Eckhout made the animals more exciting than they actually are – tortoises do not in fact have teeth.

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