John J. Audubon, Pl. 6 Great American Hen & Young, The Birds of America, Lazars edition, 1827, hand-colored engraving
Take advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to acquire a rare early state Lizars edition engraving of John J. Audubon's Plate 6, Great American Hen & Young, Vulgo, Female Wild Turkey, Meleagris Gallopavo, available this week only at a substantial discount. There are four states of this plate, and this is the earliest variant. The current name is Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, Linn.
Audubon conceptualized this composition in conjunction with Plate 1, Wild Turkey, Male. In his Ornithological Biography, Audubon describes the almost cinematic dramatization of nature depicted in this plate, "Here you have his mate (referring to the male turkey in plate 1), now converted into a kind and anxious parent, leading her young progeny, with measured step and watchful eye, through the intricacies of the forest. The chickens, still covered with down, are running among her feet in pursuit of insects. One is picking its sprouting plumelets, while another is ridding itself of a tick which has fastened upon its little wing."
A richly hand-colored engraving in pristine condition. Engraved, printed, and colored by W. H. Lizars in Edinburgh, 1827, J. Whatman paper, double-elephant size, 25.75 x 38.5 inches.
Renowned for his legendary undertaking to depict all the birds of America, the images John James Audubon (1785–1851) created for his great work, the Birds of America, are icons of nineteenth-century art.
*Reference: An Index and Guide to Audubon's Birds of America, Susanne M. Low, American Museum of Natural History, Abbeville Press, New York, 1988, page 37; Ornithological Biography, or an account of the habits if the birds of the United States of America, John James Adudubon, Adam Black, Edinburgh 1831, Vol. 1, page 33; Audubon the Naturalist, Francis Hobart Herrick, second edition, D. Appleton-Century Company, New York and London, 1838, page 358.
$89,500 this week only (list price $115,000). Offer expires 3-5-2018.
Audubon explored the American backwoods and wilderness to discover, record, and illustrate its avian life. America’s most revered artist-naturalist was born in Saint-Domingue (present day Haiti), the bastard son of Jean Audubon, a French sea captain. The embarrassing fact of his illegitimate birth was hidden by his family until well after Audubon’s death. To escape a slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue, in 1791 the handsome young boy was brought to his father’s home in Nantes, France, where he was raised and cherished by his father’s childless wife, Anne Moynet. In 1803, to avoid conscription in Napoleon’s army, his father sent him to manage Mill Grove, a farm he owned near Philadelphia.
From childhood, Audubon was fascinated by nature, drawing and studying birds during extended “rambles” in the woods. However, it was not until he was the father of two sons of his own that Audubon fully embraced the life of an artist-naturalist with the support of his devoted wife, Lucy Audubon. In 1820, Audubon left his family in Cincinnati, embarking with a young apprentice, Joseph R. Mason. They crossed the Ohio River to the Mississippi on a flatboat to New Orleans. Mason worked with Audubon from 1820 until 1822, contributing mostly botanical elements to about 55 of Audubon’s paintings. Later in the project, the artists George Lehman, Maria Martin, and his sons Victor Gifford Audubon and John Woodhouse Audubon assisted John James Audubon with botanical backgrounds.
In 1826, he brought his portfolio of primarily watercolor paintings to Great Britain where his work was applauded by the scientific community and admired by the elite classes. A well-known Scottish engraver and painter, William Home Lizars (1788–1859) befriended Audubon in the fall of 1826, a few months after his arrival in England. Lizars was quite impressed with the originality of Audubon's paintings exclaiming upon viewing some of Audubon's drawings, "My God! I never saw anything like this before!" Lizars began to produce the very first plates in 1826. However, after the completion of only ten plates, Lizars’ colorists went on strike. In London, Audubon met the engraver Robert Havell, who was able to undertake engraving Audubon’s great work in the size of life. Audubon continued his pursuit in London with Robert Havell, who published The Birds of America from 1827 to 1838. Twelve years in the making, the completed work comprised 435 hand-colored engravings. Havell also retouched Lizars’ original efforts, adding aquatint to the engraving and etching. On those plates, Havell’s name appears alongside that of the Scottish engraver’s. Together with Havell, J. J. Audubon created the lavish double-elephant-size folio of The Birds of Americacompleted with the help of family, friends, and other capable assistants.
Audubon sold 186 subscriptions to the complete folio of The Birds of America, each of which commanded the princely sum of $1,000—the cost of a substantial home at that time. Published on sheets measuring 26.5 by 39 inches, called “double elephant” by the printing trade, the resultant aquatint engravings depict each subject in its actual size and are among the largest ever made. Still, Audubon often altered the larger birds’ natural postures, creatively composing the figure to fit within the dimensions of the sheet.
Of the 186 complete sets produced, more than 100 are intact in library and museum collections worldwide. Since first produced by Havell over 175 years ago, few of the sets have been broken to make individual prints available for sale. Joel Oppenheimer, Inc. specializes in these rare, original engravings, maintaining an extensive inventory, many in exceptionally fine condition.
For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.