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In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a new wave of travelers came to South America searching for El Dorado.  They all found it, in different corners of the geographically very varied continent. From beyond the sea, the most amazing descriptions of the nature of the American tropics (the Neo-Tropics), the region with the greatest bio-diversity on the planet, our real Dorado, had reached their avid ears. Peerless fauna and flora aroused in their imagination curiosity, respect, admiration, fear and repulsion.

 

Of the encounter between these naturalists and the vast continent many records were left. But it is in images that the emotions that kept those travelers connected with this exceptionally rich natural world were most eloquently displayed.

 

Engravings, drawings and water-colors recreated for the public and for science each new creature in its environment. Often the species described was illustrated in color, while the surroundings were only sketched in, monochrome and unreal, which seemed suited to the air of mystery created by this strange bestiary. Some of the best illustrators did not even cross the ocean; their pictures were based on stuffed specimens and the stories told by the explorers, almost always embellished with myths into which their deepest subconscious world was projected. And the fact is that Neo-Tropical fauna is so magnificent that it seems to contain all the symbolic images, all the archetypes, with which we represent ourselves.

 

From the teeming fauna that surrounds us I have made a selection, based on the symbolism of the Babylonian zodiac, that can reflect our innermost nature. These are the Golden Twelve of the Neo-Tropical Zodiac, a tribute to the travelers and artists who mythologized with their illustrations the South American El Dorado, born of the fusion of an exuberant nature with a boundless world of unconscious symbols.

Antonio Briceño

April 2009

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