Edward Lear, Pl. 281 Freckled Bittern, hand-colored lithograph, Birds of Europe, 1832–37

$2,250 this week only (list price $3,500). Offer expires 10-9-2017

Laura Oppenheimer


Edward Lear, Pl. 281 Freckled Bittern, hand-colored lithograph, Birds of Europe, 1832–37

Acquire a highly coveted work by Edward Lear, Plate 281, Freckled Bittern, Botarus lentiginosus (Steph.), superb hand-colored lithograph from John Gould’s Birds of Europe, available this week only at a special price. The current name for this species is American Bittern, Botarus lentiginosus (Rackett, 1813 )Drawn from nature at two-thirds the natural size and signed in the stone, Edward Lear's characteristically graceful and exacting portrait is of an adult specimen

Gould's text description reports that though this specimen was shot in England, it is not native to Europe.

A bird of this species was shot in Devonshire in the autumn of 1804; and after passing through the hands of two or three persons, who were not aware of the rarity or value of the specimen, it came into the possession of Colonel Montagu, by whom it was first described and figured in the supplement to his Ornithological Dictionary under the name Freckled Heron, Ardea lentiginosa, and after whose death it was transferred with his whole collection to the British Museum. It is now ascertained that the true habitat of this species is America, and that it is only an occasional visitant to this country.

John Gould’s monumental Birds of Europe, was originally published in 22 parts from 1832 to 1837. It comprises 448 hand-colored folio-size lithographs in five volumes. The five volumes were classed according to a system designed by the zoologist and politician, Nicholas Aylward Vigors (1785–1840). Vigors co-founded the London Zoological Society in 1826. One of the great ornithological artists of his era, 67 of the plates and many of the foregrounds were drawn and lithographed by Edward Lear. The balance of the plates were drawn and lithographed by Gould’s talented wife, Elizabeth Coxen Gould, from sketches by John Gould.

Superb color and condition, printed by C. Hullmandel and colored by Gabriel Bayfield in London, 1832–1837. Sheet size approximately 14.75 x 21.5 inches.

$2,250 this week only (list price $3,500). Offer expires 10-9-17.

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John Gould (1804–81) was a prolific publisher of ornithological subjects. In 19th-century Europe, his name was as well recognized as Audubon’s was in North America. Unlike Audubon, whose life’s work focused on one region, Gould traveled widely and employed other artists to help create his lavish, hand-colored lithographic folios.

Gould’s love of natural history was fostered in the gardens of King George III where his father was chief gardener at Windsor Castle. Although trained as a gardener, Gould’s interests quickly evolved, and at the age of 23, Nicholas Vigors hired him to work as a taxidermist to the Zoological Society of London. After three years, he progressed to the position of curator of birds and chief taxidermist. In 1830, newly married, Gould and his artist wife, Elizabeth, began their publishing career. During his lengthy career, Gould published over forty volumes comprising nearly 3,000 large folio ornithology plates of species from around the world.

Born outside London in 1812, Lear was the twentieth child of Jeremiah Lear, a well-to-do London stockbroker. He was raised primarily by his elder sister, Ann, who provided classical studies and taught him to draw from nature. The multi-talented Edward Lear (1804–1888) was a self-taught naturalist and painter who later became famous for authoring books of nonsense poems and limericks. About 1828, Lear worked as a zoological draftsman, gaining employment at the Zoological Society in London where he met John Gould, one of the great 19th-century publishers of natural history monographs.

Lear also contributed nine of the 34 plates that comprised Gould’s A Monograph of the Family of Toucans. Lear’s exacting and masterly skill as an artist was employed by other major publishers of 19th-century English ornithologies and natural histories. His work is distinguished by the fact that he was the first bird artist to draw primarily from living examples, recording not only the precise details of the birds he painted, but also expressing each ornithological subject’s unique character. The plates Lear contributed to John Gould’s Birds of Europe are among the finest of that work. These rare, beautifully hand-colored plates are signed by Lear in the lithographic stone.

For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300

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