In nature’s infinite book of secrecy / A little I can read
-Antony and Cleopatra
The Lascaux cave paintings represent some of the earliest artwork on Earth. Dating as far back as 15,000 BCE, these magnificent paintings contain nearly 6,000 figures, the majority of which depict the animals that inhabited the surrounding areas. As long as we have been capable of it, human beings have been compelled to chronicle and classify our natural world.
The books and documents displayed in this exhibition demonstrate humankind’s complicated and delicate relationship with the flora and fauna that share our planet. Filled with sumptuous illustrations and intricate descriptions, these materials detail scientific achievements and wild imaginings, recipes for nourishment, and manuals of poison and danger. We have arranged the exhibition so that the themes of the flora-related cases on the east side of the gallery mirror the fauna cases on the west side—a fearful symmetry. The items in these cases are both figuratively and literally drawn from nature.