John J. Audubon, Pl. 409 Havell's Tern and Trudeau's Tern, Birds of America, Havell Edition, 1827–1838, Hand-colored Engraving

$5,500 this week only (list price $8,500). Offer expires 10-2-2017

Laura Oppenheimer


John J. Audubon, Pl. 409 Havell's Tern and Trudeau's TernThe Birds of America, Havell edition, 1827–1838, hand-colored engraving

Acquire a superb Havell edition aquatint engraving by John J. Audubon, Plate 409, Havell's Tern and Trudeau's TernSterna Havelli (Aud.) and Sterna Trudeau (Aud.), available this week only at a substantial discount. The current name for Havell's Tern is Forster's Tern, Sterna forsteri (Nuttall).

In this composition of terns in a seascape with seashells, Trudeau's Tern is depicted on the left in front of the bird that Audubon named Havell's Tern in honor of his engraver and colorist, Robert Havell. Audubon thought he had discovered both of these species. Unfortunately, he did not realize that the previously named Forster's Tern was in winter plumage at the time he sighted it and procured the specimens from which he made the drawing. In the text entry, Audubon honors Robert Havell, "I have several reasons for naming this Tern after Mr. ROBERT HAVELL, of Oxford Street, London. In the first place I consider him as one of the best ornithological engravers in England. Secondly, I feel greatly indebted to him for the interest which he has always evinced in my publication, which, I dare venture to assert, is the largest work of the kind that has hitherto appeared, and the engraving of which has cost him much trouble and anxiety. Thirdly, I consider myself entitled to express my gratitude in this manner, the individual on whom I confer the honour being more deserving of it than many to whom similar compliments have been paid."

Of Trudeau's Tern, Audubon writes, "This beautiful Tern, which has not hitherto been described, was procured in Egg harbour, New Jersey, by my esteemed and talented friend, J. Trudeau, Esq. of Louisiana, to whom I have the great honour of dedicating it. Nothing is known of the range, or even the particular habits in which it may differ from other species...." Susanne M. Low notes that "The A.O.U. says the Trudeau's Tern (also called Snow-crowned Tern) breeds in Chile and Argentina. The specimen from which Audubon described this species still exists, the question is whether the locality is correct."

A richly hand-colored engraving in pristine condition. Engraved, printed, and colored by R. Havell & Son in London in 1838, J. Whatman paper, double-elephant size, 39 x 26 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. 

References: An Index and Guide to Audubon's Birds of America, Susanne M. Low, 1988, page 173; The Birds of America of the Birds from Drawings Made in the United States of  America and their Territories, John James Audubon, 1844, Vol. VII, pages 103–105; The Original Water-color Paintings by John James Audubon for the Birds of America, Vol. II, 1966, Plate 309, Trudeau's Tern and Forster's Tern.

 $5,500 this week only (list price $8,500). Offer expires 10-2-17.

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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. There he met the engraver Robert Havell, who was able to undertake engraving Audubon’s great work in the size of life. Together with Havell, J. J. Audubon created the lavish double-elephant-size folio of The Birds of America—completed with the help of family, friends, and other capable assistants.

In Edinburgh, the Scottish engraver W. H. Lizars began to produce the very first plates in 1826. However, after the completion of only ten plates, Lizars’ colorists went on strike. Audubon continued his pursuit in London with Robert Havell, who published The Birds of America from 1827 to 1838Twelve 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.

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 261/2 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.

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