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First Natural Science Collections of the Kunstkamera


Skeleton of Siamese twins. Preparation of F. Ruysch.

“Suriname pipa” preparation. A large toad which lives on Ceylon and in Indonesia. Collection of A. Seba (?).

Plants and insects of Suriname. One of the drawings by Maria Sibilla Merian.

A stuffed pangolin – an animal living on Ceylon and Indonesia. Collection of A. Seba.
                

Human foetus on dyed injected vessels of the placenta.

Aga toad preparation. South America. The Indians dipped their arrows in the poison of the hedonic glands.

Medical instruments. Western Europe. Late 17th – early 18th century.

Specimen of a child’s arm. F. Ruysch.

The exhibition tells of the collection of the “Cabinet of naturalia” of the Kunstkamera and its exhibits in the 18th century. In 1716, Peter the Great acquired a collection for the museum from the Dutch chemist and collector Albert Seba consisting of exotic animals, fish, reptiles and insects, showing the enormous diversity of the fauna of the world. Today visitors to the exhibition can see the small portion of this collection which has been preserved.

As is well known, Peter the Great was particularly interested in human anatomy. During his visit to the Netherlands, the young Tsar attended anatomy lectures, along with a course in boat-building. Well understanding the great benefits from a knowledge of anatomy for surgery and general medicine, Peter bought the collection of preparations of the famous anatomist Fredrick Ruysch, whom he called his teacher, a collection which was at that time famous all over Europe.

On-line catalogue of specimens made by Frederick Ruysch.

From the viewpoint of science of the early 18th century, to achieve the norm it was extremely important to study anomalies of the development of organisms. Peter the Great issued decrees to bring living and dead to the Kunstkamera to from the scientific collection. They served as the basis for studies by the first anatomists who were invited to work at the St.-Petersburg Academy of Sciences. At the exhibition, one can see the first scientific publications illustrated by artists from Holland, Maria-Dorothea and Georg Gzel, who were also invited to work at the Kunstkamera.

All the exhibits displayed in this hall are linked with the activity of Peter the Great, with his scientific interests, ideas and orders. The personal instruments of the Tsar, the collections of teeth which he removed himself, and also a series of water-colours acquired from the Dutch artist and researcher of insects Maria Sibilla Merian complete the exhibition.