John J. Audubon, Pl. 278 Carolina Parrot, The Birds of America, Bien edition, 1860 chromolithograph
A Rare Unbound Full Sheet with Hand-coloring:
Acquire one of John J. Audubon's most sought after and beautiful images, Plate 278 Carolina Parrot, Psittacus carolinensis (Linn.), a richly colored chromolithograph from the Bien edition of The Birds of America—available this week only at a special price. Audubon depicted seven birds are depicted feeding on a cocklebur, Xanthium strumariam, males (1.), females (2.), and young (3.). the single immature bird has a green head.
One of six species of birds Audubon represented in the Birds of America, sadly the Carolina Parrot has been extinct since 1914. In his entry in the Ornithological Biography, or an Account of the Habits of the Birds of the United States of America, Audubon already took note of that during his lifetime they were vanishing from parts of the American landscape where they once thrived. "Our Parakeets are very rapidly diminishing in number; and in some districts, where twenty-five years ago they were plentiful, scarcely any are now to be seen. At that period, they could be procured as far up the tributary waters of the Ohio as the Great Kenhawa, the Scioto, the heads of Miami, the mouth of the Manimee at its junction with Lake Erie, on the Illinois river, and sometimes as far north-east as Lake Ontario, and along the eastern districts as far as the boundary line between Virginia and Maryland. At the present day, very few are to be found higher than Cincinnati, nor is it until you reach the mouth of the Ohio that Parakeets are met with in considerable numbers. I should think that along the Mississippi there is not now half the number that existed fifteen years ago."
In pristine condition, this print was never bound into a folio, measuring a full 39 3/4 x 27 inches. The paper is virtually flawless. Excellent color and hand-coloring. Chromolithograph with additional hand coloring, 1860.
$21,500 this week only (list price $28,000). Offer expires 4-10-17.
Produced between 1858 and 1860, the Bien edition of Audubon’s Birds of America is the largest and most valuable color plate book ever published in America, and the rarest of all Audubon folios. Also of double-elephant dimensions (27 x 40 inches), this edition represents one of the finest examples of early large-scale color printing. The new technique of chromolithography was perceived as an advancement in print-making technology that promised to achieve effects entirely different from engraving.
John James Audubon (1785–1851), is renowned for his extraordinary undertaking to record the birds of America. The images he created are icons of 19th-century art. Having studied and drawn birds since childhood, in 1819, Audubon followed his passion and fully embraced the life of an artist-naturalist, embarking on a mission to create the Birds of America. He explored the American backwoods and wilderness to discover, record, and illustrate its avian life. It was not until he reached the shores of Great Britain with a portfolio laden with his bird portraits that Audubon found an engraver who could produce his great work in the size of life, as he desired. Together with London engraver, Robert Havell, J. J. Audubon and his family created the lavish double-elephant-size Havell edition of aquatint engravings of The Birds of America, published 1827–38.
Seven years after their father’s death, Audubon’s sons, John Woodhouse Audubon and Victor Gifford Audubon, began an American edition of The Birds of America with Julius Bien, a New York-based printer who was pioneering the field of chromolithography. Bien transferred the images from Havell’s copper plates onto lithographic stones. As many as six printing stages with additional hand-drawn lithography and coloring were used to reproduce subtleties found in the Havell engravings.
As the Havell edition was, the Bien edition was also sold by subscription beginning in 1858. Production was brought to a halt by the advent of the Civil War and only 150 plates on 105 sheets were completed. The Audubon family was unable to complete and sell the edition or recoup their losses, which led to a devastating bankruptcy. The consensus is that fewer than seventy folios were completed.
For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.