John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Plate 271 - Frigate Pelican (Magnificent Frigatebird)
The Birds of America
London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838
Hand-colored aquatint and copperplate engravings
38 1/2” x 26”, 49 1/2” x 37” framed
John James Audubon is without rival as the most celebrated American Natural History artist. Audubon devoted his life to realizing his dream of identifying and depicting the birds of North America, and his work has had profound cultural and historical significance. In the second decade of the 19th century, he set out to travel throughout the wilderness of the United States, drawing every notable species of native bird. His remarkable ambition and artistic talent culminated in the publication of the monumental Birds of America in 1827-38, a series of 435 aquatints that have only grown in fame since the time of their first appearance. This work established Audubon as an early American artist who could attract European attention, and for many, he personified New World culture and its emerging independent existence.
In 1826, Audubon observed and sketched the frigate bird while traveling aboard the ship the Delos, which was sailing from New Orleans to Liverpool. In Audubon’s striking image of the Frigate Pelican, now known as the Magnificent Frigatebird, the artist’s skill in capturing the animated flight of the bird, as it dives for its prey, is beautifully illustrated. With a wingspan exceeding seven feet, the Frigate Pelican is truly an awesome sight and, according to Audubon, could be found breeding in the Florida Keys. His aquatint is of a mature male Frigate in its spring plumage and two drawings of the bird’s feet are placed along the top edge of the plate. The exquisite blackness of the Frigate’s plumage is magnified by the whiteness of the background, creating an image with both immediacy and beauty. Moreover, its simplicity makes it a superlative example of ornithological illustration, and its animation and artistic rendering exemplify the reason for the esteem in which John James Audubon is held.
Offered at $48,000
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