The third book illustrated by Enrico Valenza we’re reviewing is Dinosauri da scoprire e colorare (Edizioni Del Baldo). It’s from 2016 , but the illustrations appeared in Osserva attacca e impara – I dinosauri nei loro ambienti and (edited) in Catalogo dei dinosauri l’era dei grandi rettili, too, so they might actually be older. Some details support this idea, the appearance and placement within the book of some animals. The book is made only of full-page illustrations of Mesozoic periods, similar to those we saw in the first article, and white drawings of the dinosaurs taken from the illustrations.

Don’t you get a déjà vu from the illustration of the Triassic in Dinosauri? This is almost an updated version: the scenery is similar,as the Plateosaurus group, the Coelophysis flock (WWD inspired, again), Peteinosaurus in the sky (now with Preondactylus, too) e the colours of Herrerasaurus. This Triassic is way greener, tho. Also farewell to some characters, the theropod-like Teratosaurus, its friend Postosuchus and Longisquama, and welcome to Melanorosaurus, Mussaurus, Procompsognathus and Proganochelys.

Unlike almost all of Valenza’s splash pages, the marine Triassic is almost all from one formation. Almost, since there’s a Rutiodon enjoying a trip to the sea. But, phytosaur excluded, all the other animals are from Monte San Giorgio, a site famous for its Anisian-Ladinian fossils. It’s nice to see some attention to italian species from an italian illustrator: Italy might be poor in dinosaurs, but we have a noteworthy collection of sea reptiles and pterosaurs from the triassic. There are two placodonts (identified as family-level, but they look like Placodus itself), with a nicely keratinized, almost beak-like, snout. Then Besanosaurus, the biggest animal of this formation, here chasing a squid and breaching, a nothosaur (again, probably Nothosaurus itself) – with a well restored, not lizard-like skull – and Tanystropheus. The exact lifestyle of this long-necked animal is debated, but the recentmost studies appear to validate Valenza’s illustration.

The Middle Jurassic is a mixture of Chinese and European animals. There are some problems with relative sizes: Monolophosaurus is almost as tall as Shunosaurus, and Anurognathus is too far away to be that big (it would have fit in an hand). The Shunosaurus pose resembles (but it’s not copied from) a famous illustration by Gregory S. Paul. But, instead of Gasosaurus, here Shunosaurus are fending off the oversized Monolophosaurus, which sprouts and interesting rigged crest quite different from the usual smoother look, which might end up to be validated by osteological correlates. While it’s not attacking Shunosaurus, Gasosaurus is in the illustration, chasing Rhamphorhynchus. The exact clade of this theropod it’s debated, but it looks like it’s a basal Tetanuran at least. The generalized morphology Valenza gave it is thus plausible, but it shouldn’t have had that clawed fourth digit. Megalosaurus could have been used instead of Molophosaurus, being closer to the size they are depicted, but it’s patrolling the background instead. Another Megalosaur, Eustreptospondylus, is facing Chialingosaurus: as in “Dinosauri“, the skull is not really Eustreptospondylus-like, being closer to that of a Sinraptoridae. Which would fit, considering its prey.

The marine Jurassic has some interesting perspective from below, with the observer perched on submerged rock and the animals in the (more or less) open sea. There are Liopleurodon and Cryptoclidus silhouetted against the surface, as a possible prey might see them. If the first one has some anatomical perplexities (why such a slender body and a long tail?), the latter are better, with forelimbs longer than the hindlimbs (the reverse was in pliosaurs) and a medium-length neck… for a plesiosaur. The generic “ichthyosaur” label makes hard to understand if the ichthyosaurs are Ichthyosaurus itself or some other species: expecially the one on the left, which has bizarre proportions , perhaps due to perspective (hindlimbs as long as the forelimbs and a really massive skull)? Kudos fr the colouration, tho, since at least one species was found to have a dark colour. Last, there are not one, but two marine crocodiles (which usually get ignored in paleoart) and, if Metriorhynchus has a rather stylized skull, Geosaurus has an elongated snout that… no, wait, actually Geosaurus should have a relatively short snout. In 2009, the long-snouted species was reclassified into the genus Cricosaurus. Forget it. Valenza’s effort to represent the jaw musculature is remarkable, considering he could have got away with a flat texture and no one would have bothered. However, the forelimbs should be smaller, and the hindlimbs were not so fin-like.

The early Cretaceous illustration can be roughly divided into four quadrants: counterclockwise, we have Carcharodontosaurus and Ouranosaurus, two dinosaurs from North Africa that get associated even in illustrations that do NOT deliberately mix up formations. Carcharodontosaurus has the classic 90s look, when paleontologists were still getting to know Carcharodontosauridae (the situation is better today… not ideal but better) and illustrators placed the head on a generic “carnosaur” body. Ouranosaurus has colours a bit reminiscent of the Battat model. It is depicted as a quadrupedal animal, although limb proportions suggest that it moved mostly on the lower legs. On the bottom left, we have a clear reference to Walking With Dinosaurs, with Muttaburrasaurus and Leallynasaura paying homage to the look of the series, where Leallynasaura is basically the “small ornithopod model” also used for Dryosaurus and Thescelosaurus, and Muttaburrasaurus is a powerful beast with a pointed, Iguanodon-like thumb and visibly colored nasal sacs on its large head. In fact, it’s a bit strange to see them in the middle of a desert.At the bottom right we have the Wessex Formation, with Iguanodon, one of the most classic dinosaurs – but with good attention to the skull and the hand, when there were still rrestorations with well-separated fingers an a disturbingly human way – and Polacanthus. The latter is interesting since it does resemble WWD neither in morphology or colour. On the top right, we have a selection of pterosaurs from different formations: Pterodaustro from Argentina, Ornithocheirus (probably Tropeognathus from Brazil), Dsungaripterus from China, and a rare guest, Ornithodesmus from the UK. Finally, at the center there’s Wuerhosaurus, often featured in popular texts for being one of the few Cretaceous stegosaurids. It looks like it’s menacing the leftmost Iguanodon: in Valenza books, Iguanodons are always looking for trouble.

Unlike the books featured in the previous articles, this one is still available in some online stores, so, if you are interested in the remaining illustrations, look for it, it’s also really cheap. With the present article our special about Enrico Valenza’s paleoart is over: now that you know his style, you will recognize his works if you find them featured in other books!

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