Dutch School
Studies of a European Otter [Lutra lutra], and further studies of its paws and webbed feet

PROVENANCE: Private collection, The Netherlands.

Extensively inscribed throughout on the recto and verso in pencil, further studies in pencil of otter in pencil and ink on the verso, pencil, grey and brown wash and brush, watermark LVC, on laid paper

163 x 157 mm. (6 x 6 in)

Maple frame and matt: 16 x 20 1/2 in


There is light time staining throughout, two minor holes, one larger stain by the webbed foot, the paper and watercolour is otherwise in a good condition.

The eighteenth century passion for portrayal and a rather unscientific approach to collecting go hand in hand, and as can be seen from the notes the anonymous draftsman made of the front (recto) and back (verso) of this drawing. It does not appear that they were familiar with the system of classifying the plant and animal kingdoms that the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus (1707-81) had devised, in which the object is given Latin names for the genus and species. It seems the artist used the common names which were used.

It is likely that this animal was drawn in one of the many menageries and natural history collections in Holland during the eighteenth century, of which a number existed including the cabinet of Prince Willem V, his menagerie was at the country house of Het Kleine Loo, near Voorburg, one kilometre from The Hague. Other collections are known from Aart Schouman who records the collections of Professor M.W. Schwencke (whose portrait he drew and is in The Hague City Archives), Mr Hulle, Abraham Laporte, Mrs Groffestins, Mr Tak in Rotterdam to name a few. The famous one at Kleine Loo was built up from animals given from the directors of the East and West Indian company and included foreign animals, exotic shells, and other strange specimens as presents brought back by the merchant trading vessels.1

This animal is common in Europe and is known as the Eurasian otter, common otter and Old world otter, and is a member of the Lutrinae or otter subfamily. The animal is brown above and cream below. Normally 57-96 cm long, not counting the tail of 35-45 cm, the female is shorter than the male.

1.Laurens J. Bol, Aart Schouman, Ingenious Painter and Draughtsman, Doornspijk, 1991, portrait of Schwenke on page 72, figure 56.