The iconographic collection gathered by the Dutchman Johannes Le Francq van Berkhey (1729-1812) was bought at a public auction for the Royal Cabinet of Natural History in Amsterdam in 1785, on the orders of Carlos III. After arriving in Madrid, Franco Dávila, director of the Royal Cabinet, performed a manuscript inventory of the collection that had more than 9,000 items.
Van Berkhey, doctor, natural scientist and draftsman is the author of hundreds of drawings of this collection which was basically zoological-themed but also included plants, minerals, rocks and fossils. It is of great artistic and scientific value.
Madrid’s National Museum of Natural Sciences has more than 4,000 zoological illustrations (paintings and engravings) in which more than 50 artists from the XVII and XVIII centuries were identified, although most of the paintings were made by van Berkhey and Jacob L'Admiraal.
Other authors are Beeldemaker, Holsteijn, Hengstenberg, and Durero.