[Under construction — images and captions/links are still being added] last updated 20-July-2023


It should be noted that there is a lot of confusion and conflation of coati and opossum effigies, due to the signficant overlap in not only geographic range and basic physical features (including face masking), but also an overlap in regional cultural associations and iconography, especially the common “paws-to-snout” gesture (more on that below). Generally, if it looks like there was clear effort made to distinguish it as a coati via a longer, narrower, upturned snout, and smaller, rounder ears, I’m more inclined to identify it as such, as seen in the examples above. However, there is also the possibility that some were meant to be composite figures, representing some essence of both animals (and perhaps raccoons too?).

The “paws-to-snout” gesture seen on multiple examples above is commonly seen on coati and opossum vessels, as well as armadillo ones, though its meaning remains uncertain. Elka Weinstein observes that “these animals have relatively agile fingers and hands which they use for eating and grooming…but the action which is depicted on the ceramics does not seem to be either eating or grooming. The purpose of this action is therefore somewhat perplexing.” Weinstein suggests one possibility is that it is meant to represent the animal playing its nose like a flute, citing South American myths which include this action; and, in fact, some of these ceramics did function as small instruments such as flutes, oracinas, and rattles (such as the coati flute seen here). Rebecca Stone-Miller offers a few additional ideas, including to simply draw attention to the snout as a prominent physical feature; to represent eating (though it should be noted that these animals don’t generally eat in this way in real life); or as a playful gesture referencing ritual clowning (which both coatis and opossums were associated with). [See Elka Weinstein, “The Serpent’s Children: The Iconography of the Late Formative Ceramics of Coastal Ecuador” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1999), 188-9, and Rebecca Stone-Miller, Seeing with New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection of Art of the Ancient Americas (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2002), 130-1.]


From Felix Platter (1536-1614) collection of drawings sent to Conrad Gessner (1516-1565) for the Historiae animalium: image of a South American Coati sent from Antonio Musa Brassavola (1500-1555), who was a physician to popes and kings; probably an animal from one of his clients’ menageries (note collar). [EARLIEST KNOWN EUROPEAN IMAGE OF A COATI]
Conrad Gessner, woodcut designed from Brassavola’s original, published in Historiae animalium, 1554 Appendix [FIRST PUBLISHED IMAGE OF A COATI]
Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630), etching, from a series of animal prints; image is a derivation of Gessner

Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt, South American Coati, 1596 – 1610
Illustration of a captive South American Coati in Ulisse Aldrovandi’s (1522-1605) paper zoo (Vol. 006-2, p. 79), second half of the 16th century. Artist unknown; may have been observed as a living specimen or may have been modeled from Gessner’s illustration in Historiae animalium
Joris Hoefnagel (1542-1601), “Marmot, Hamsters, Rat, Field Mouse, Shrew, and a Coatimundi,” Plate 49 of Animalia Qvadrvpedia et Reptilia (Terra), 1575/1580. Appears to be a South American Coati; may have been observed in the court menagerie of Emperor Rudolf II, or may have been modeled from Gessner’s illustration in Historiae animalium.

1676, possibly the first European image of a White-nosed Coati?
Published in Mémoires pour servir a l’histoire naturelle des animaux by Claude Perrault (1613-1688)


Jacopo Ligozzi, Coati in un Paesaggio, c. 1620-40, oil on canvas, Villa medicea di Poggio a Caiano, Italy
South American Coati, resumably an individual from the Medici menagierie.,_coati_in_un_paesaggio,_1620-40_ca..JPG

Pieter Boel (Flemish, 1622-1674), Fouine et Coati, c. 1669-1671, oil on canvas.
South American Coati, study of an individual from Louis XIV’s menagerie.
Detail of the same coati (with African Crested Porcupine friend) in lower right from The Months or the Royal Houses, July, Vincennes, Charles Le Brun (designer) and Gobelins Factory (manufacturer), France, c. 1676-80, tapestry. Boel’s studies were used as models for the animals.

Detail of what appears to be a coati in the bottom left corner of Tapestry of the Indies, Little Indies III, Gobelins Factory (manufacturer), France, c. 1723-1725. Original images from Dutch Brazil court artists (Marcgrave, Eckhout, Post, 1637/44) were used as models for the animals.
South American Coati study image from Dutch Brazil, usually attributed to Georg Marcgrave, in Libri Principis: Handbooks I (Libri Picturati 36), 1637/44, p. 38.
This is the only one of the surviving coati images from the Dutch Brazil collection which looks like it could have been used as a model for the tapestry?

Domenico Guidobono (Italian, 1668-1746), An Allegory, c. 1710-20,
oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The coati’s unnatural pose and overly stuffed body suggests that Guidobono saw a taxidermy specimen rather than a living coati, perhaps in his patron’s cabinet collection. While the detailed rendering of the head confirms this to be a South American Coati, the way the rest of the body and tail are shaped make it look more like an opossum, which is probably why it was previously misidentified as such!

Philipp Ferdinand de Hamilton (c. 1664 – 1750), Perlhühner und Nasenbär, 1722, oil on canvas, Kunsthistorisches Museum.
This South American coati was part of the menagerie of Prince Eugene of Savoy.
Salomon Kleiner (1703-1761), “Indianische Füchse [Indian Foxes],” 1732, engraving for Représentation Des Animaux de la Menagerie de SAS Monseigneur le Prince Eugène François de Savoye et de Piedmont. Fig. a is another depiction of Savoy’s coati seen in Hamilton’s painting.

Detail of “Coati Mondi” emblem on the ceiling of the Long Gallery of Earlshall Castle, Fife, Scotland, 1620.
Many of the animal emblems on Earlshall’s ceiling were modeled from the illustrations in Topsell’s History of Four-footed Beasts (1607), but the coati does not appear to be one of them. I am still searching for an original model.


17th century (16??), Southern Germany, from an album of watercolours of mammals, birds, insects and plants including German legends (appear derived from Gessner etc.), Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Ms Rh hist 161, [29]24:

Peter Paillou (c. 1720- c. 1790), original watercolors for the paper museum of Taylor White (1701-1772), created between 1744-1772

Cod. Min. 52, vol. 5, fol. 274r: Collection of birds of the Royal Menagerie of the Park of Versailles
Full page: animal study (coati, ‘Coati Mondi. Animal du Bresil’). Tempera on parchment, Paris, 3rd quarter of the 17th c. – Austrian National Library

Tomás de Suría (1761-1844), Cuadrúpedo : tejón [coatí]
Acapulco, México, Malaspina Expedition (1789-1794)

Johann Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858), 1822, watercolor?
(reproduced in a 2013 book, need info on original work)


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