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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 43, Two Bears which Approached the Ship and what Happened to Them. From the "Little Voyages"

De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 43, Two Bears which Approached the Ship and what Happened to Them. From the "Little Voyages"

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De BRY, Johann Theodor, (1560-1623) and Johann Israel de Bry (1565-1609). Part III, Plate 43, Two Bears which Approached the Ship and what Happened to Them. From the "Little Voyages"


Plate XLIII, Bon zween Baren welche fich zu un serem schiff 
From Part III of Johann Theodor de Bry (1561-1623) and Johann Isreal de Bry's (1565-1609) Orientalische Indien (“Little Voyages”), Dritter Theil indiae orientalis...Frankfurt: 1599 (first edition)
Engraving with original, early 17th century hand color heightened with gold on laid paper; paper dimensions: approximately: 11 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Printed by Matthias Becker
van Groesen 52


This illustration shows the Dutch familiarizing themselves with what would be their habitat for the coming months about two weeks after their ship became ice-bound. Around September 11, 1596 the Dutch decided to build a house in order to survive. The ship itself provided no resistance to the cold and the aggressive bears. They wanted to build a log cabin but the ship must remain spared. Luck was on their side, wood had been washed ashore nearby from more forested areas, good for building a house but also for building fires.

On September 15 the men were busy hauling the last sled with goods to the house. Three bears suddenly descended on the Dutch. One stuck his head into a tub to pull out a piece of meat. But it cost him dearly, as he was shot through the head by one of the Dutch. The other reared up and lunged at the men. He was shot in the belly and - after being disemboweled - frozen in ice standing on four legs; the men hoped to one day bring him back to the Netherlands as a trophy.*

Title: Two bears which approached the ship and what happened to them. 

Text: One time we placed a big tub with salted meat on the ice slightly far from the ship to water it this attracted two bears who ran to it to steal some but when one of them tried to stick his head into the tub he was shot in the head from the ship so that he fell down and no vein was moving when the other bear saw this he stiffened and when he realized that his companion was dead he took off but came back right after to the ship when the sailors saw him they fended him off with rifles and halberds when he was standing right in front of them he rose and got shot in his body as soon as he felt the shot he backed down and ran away.**


Documenting Gerrit de Veer's Journal of Three Dutch voyages to reach the East Indies by the North (1594- 1597).


In 1596 helmsman Willem Barents undertook a third attempt to reach Asia from the Netherlands by sailing via the North Pole. There was reportedly a large open sea beyond the island of Novaya Zemlya. Once you passed this, and headed back to the south, you would presumably emerge near Japan and China.

Barents' first attempt involved navigating along the northern side of Novaya Zemlya, the second along the southern side of that island, via Vaygach. Both attempts had to be abandoned because of the advancing ice.

While seven ships full of merchandise had sailed during the second journey, now for the third attempt, the expedition was more prudent: the main concern was exploring the sea route, trade was  secondary. Only two  ships, both from Amsterdam, sailed on May 18, 1596, this time once again via the northern side of Novaya Zemlya.

Willem Barents was helmsman on the ship captained by 29-year-old Jacob  van  Heemskerck. Captain of the second ship was merchant Jan Cornelisz Rijp. Barents and Rijp soon clashed over the route to follow. The northern route championed by Rijp, which had also been indicated by cartographer Plancius, won out. Although they discovered two islands, Bear Island and Spitsbergen, the first leg was a failure. They came up against an impenetrable layer of ice. Barents wanted to fol- low the northeasterly route. Rijp wasn't interested and went his own way. When he once again hit pack ice, he turned homeward. Barents and Heemskerck headed towards the northern point of Novaya Zemlya. The expedition was to be a disaster, but thanks to the spectacular overwintering of Willem Barents and his crew, under abominable conditions, this journey took on epic proportions in the illustrious history of exploration.

Not long after the return of the survivors in 1598, the story of the adventure was published, penned by Gerrit de Veer, who had been on both the second and third journey with Barents.*



*Research provided by Martine Gosselink, head of the History department at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Netherlands.

**Translated from original German by Karl Nesseler.

Description compiled by Erik Brockett who is pleased to provide additional information relating to this or other examples of the work of Johann Theodor de Bry available at Arader Galleries. He can be contacted at

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