Skip to content



    black-and-white ruffed lemur (© Dr Karl Shuker)

    Down by the years, I’ve investigated
    various mystifying animal artworks, depicting species earlier than they had been
    formally found by science, or in places far faraway from the place they
    are formally identified to exist. Examples from the previous class embrace
    varied anachronistic representations of kangaroos (one among which I documented
    in my e book The Unexplained, 1996);
    and the next case is a main instance (however one hitherto undocumented by me)
    from the latter class. So I’m enormously indebted to correspondent Cristian
    Nahuel Rojas Mendoza for very kindly bringing it to my consideration, on 17
    December 2022, and which I misplaced no time in subsequently investigating – thanks, Cristian!

    The murals containing the portrayed out-of-place
    animal in query is a powerful but surprisingly little-known pictorial encyclopaedia
    within the type of a spectacular mural, entitled Quadro de Historia Pure, Civil y Geografica del Reyno del Peru (‘Portray
    of the Pure, Civil and Geographical Historical past of the Kingdom of Peru’), or QHNCGRP for comfort hereafter on this
    current ShukerNature weblog article of mine. Consisting of quite a few miniature oil
    work and accompanying textual content on a wooden panel, it measures a really spectacular
    x 45.25 inches (325 x 115 cm).

    QHNCGRP was authored by Basque-born
    however (for 3 many years) Peru-based scholar José Ignacio Lequanda, who
    commissioned French artist Louis Thiébaut to provide the work illustrating
    it, and it was accomplished in Madrid in 1799 (click on right here
    for an intensive article by Daniela Bleichmar documenting its historical past and

    Right now, this distinctive creation is held and
    displayed on the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain (constituting
    Spain’s nationwide museum of pure historical past), which has produced an beautiful,  lavishly-illustrated web site devoted
    particularly to it (click on right here
    to go to the
    web site). I strongly advocate that you simply entry this website whereas studying my
    article right here, with a view to admire totally the character, context, content material, and
    visible great thing about this really extraordinary, mixed murals and scholarship,
    and specifically the 2 gadgets from it into consideration right here.


    of QHNCGRP in its entirety
    click on to enlarge for viewing functions (© Museo
    Nacional de Ciencias Naturales – reproduced right here on a strictly non-commercial Truthful
    Use foundation for academic/evaluation functions solely)

    Containing a grand complete of 214 particular person
    photographs, QHNCGRP presents a picture-driven
    historical past of the peoples, animals, and crops of Peru (or, in just a few circumstances, Peru’s
    South American environs). At its centre there’s an annotated map of the
    nation, depicting, describing, and delineating its varied administrative
    divisions in numerous colors, in addition to an image of the
    of Hualgayoc or Chota, emphasizing the importance of mining to Peru at that

    Constituting the outermost border or
    body of QHNCGRP is a collection of 88
    miniature work, every depicting a unique Peruvian fowl and plant, plus
    4 nook miniatures portraying Peruvian bugs. And operating horizontally
    instantly beneath the uppermost fringe of this ornithologically-themed border is a
    row of 32 miniatures portraying varied human kinds, together with indigenous
    peoples and Western {couples} in varied costumes.

    Under these, and forming a second,
    inside body, is a collection of quite a few compartments containing Lequanda’s tiny
    however voluminous handwritten textual content (he additionally added a descriptive label beneath every
    animal miniature, and appreciable textual content across the mine image). Inside this
    second body aren’t solely 4 giant footage depicting Peruvian animals but additionally (break up right into a left-hand block and a right-hand block of 30 every) a collection of 60 miniature work, once more depicting Peruvian animals. Properly, 59 of them

    As for the 60th: That is the creature
    portrayed within the miniature current on the right-hand finish of the highest row within the right-hand
    block of 30 animal footage. It appears to have been painted with especial
    precision by Thiébaut as compared with sure different of the animals portrayed
    by him in QHNCGRP, and was labeled right here
    by Lequandra as a mountain-abounding ‘Dominican monkey’.


    so-called ‘Dominican monkey’ miniature portray in close-up; and likewise proven (arrowed,
    prime row) in situ inside QHNCGRP
    click on to enlarge for viewing functions (public area)

    In actuality, nonetheless, as anybody even
    remotely versed in mammalian identification will readily affirm, this
    specific creature, its distinctive monochrome kind being each immediately recognizable
    and wholly unmistakable, is definitely a black-and-white ruffed lemur Varecia variegata, the species depicted in
    the {photograph} opening this ShukerNature article, and which is after all
    endemic to Madagascar! No lemurs of any variety happen anyplace within the New World.

    So why is there a portrait of a
    Madagascan lemur in QHNCGRP, which is
    solely dedicated to Neotropical pure historical past and tradition?

    Essentially the most cheap clarification, indicated
    by Lequanda’s accompanying textual content (and likewise famous by Bleichmar in her afore-mentioned
    article), stems from his nice familiarity with the contents of Madrid’s
    prestigious – and exceedingly prodigious – Royal Pure Historical past Cupboard, which
    was based in 1771 and opened to the general public in 1776. For inside its assortment
    of zoological specimens was none apart from a preserved instance of the
    black-and-white ruffed lemur. As this assortment would have been consulted by
    each Lequanda and Thiébaut throughout their joint preparation of QHNCGRP, one or each of them presumably
    assumed mistakenly that the lemur specimen was of South American origin, and
    thus its putting look was included accordingly throughout the QHNCGRP. However that isn’t all.

    There’s a second animal miniature in QHNCGRP that additionally attracted my curiosity
    and a focus when perusing the latter’s artworks. If you wish to search out this
    image in QHNCGRP, it is the second
    miniature alongside within the fourth row throughout the right-hand block of 30 animal
    miniatures. Or, to make issues easier, right here it’s:


    so-called ‘Nonga’ miniature portray in close-up; and likewise proven (arrowed, fourth row) in situ inside QHNCGRP
    click on to enlarge for viewing functions (public area)

    In keeping with Lequanda’s accompanying
    textual content, the Nonga lives on the banks of the River Huallaga (whose supply is in central
    Peru), and is a nocturnal creature enormously feared by the Indians, however which
    in response to Lequansda appears to be a forest spirit slightly than an actual entity.

    After I first checked out this creature, I
    thought right away that it resembled a tree sloth in fundamental outward morphology.
    However tree sloths don’t stand upright, nor are they enormously feared by natives,
    and much from being forest spirits they’re very acquainted members of the corporeal
    animal group all through the Neotropical zone.

    Nonetheless, their extinct family the bottom
    sloths did stand upright, may nicely be enormously feared by natives resulting from their very
    giant measurement and large claws, particularly in the event that they occurred to be ill-tempered
    creatures, readily turning into aggressive if threatened, and, like many different belligerent
    beasts, might certainly be deemed by their human neighbours to be supernatural
    spirits as a lot as flesh-and-blood animals.

    So may this miniature by Thiébaut be a
    depiction of a modern-day, scientifically-undiscovered floor sloth? Sure South
    American cryptids, such because the ellengassen and (particularly) the mapinguary, are
    already appeared upon by some cryptozoologists and zoologists as doubtlessly
    constituting surviving floor sloths.


    of a floor sloth (public area)

    Sadly for such romantic
    hypothesis, nonetheless, the depicted creature’s tiny tail is far more comparable
    with that of a three-toed tree sloth (two-toed tree sloths are tailless) than with
    the pretty lengthy and really sturdy caudal appendage exhibited by bona fide floor
    sloths, which they used for help and steadiness when squatting upright.

    Consequently, my private opinion is that
    this mystifying miniature portray was primarily based upon a preserved three-toed tree
    sloth, however whose regular behaviour of hanging upside-down from tree branches was
    not identified to Liébaut, so he portrayed it incorrectly as a bipedal beast
    as a substitute, thereby inadvertently recalling its formally extinct terrestrial

    My honest thanks as soon as once more to Cristian
    Nahuel Rojas Mendoza for alerting me to QHNCGRP
    and, in so doing, including one other very intriguing zoogeographical anomaly from the
    artwork world to my archive of such examples.

    For an especially intensive account of putative
    residing floor sloths, you should definitely try my e book Nonetheless In Search
    Of Prehistoric Survivors