John J. Audubon, Plate 386 Dusky Duck, Birds of America, Bien Edition, 1860
$8,750 this week only (list price $12,000). Offer expires 2-12-2017
4 February, 2017 by
John J. Audubon, Plate 386 Dusky Duck, Birds of America, Bien Edition, 1860
Laura Oppenheimer


John J. Audubon, Pl. 386 Dusky Duck, The Birds of America, Bien edition, 1860, chromolithograph

Acquire a superb double-elephant plate by John J. Audubon from The Birds of America, Pl. 386, Pl. 386 Dusky Duck., Ansa obscura, Gm. This richly colored chromolithograph from the Bien edition is available this week only at a special price. A male and female are depicted in the plate.

 Also called the Black Duck, Audubon reports in the Ornithological Biography that the Dusky Duck, "extends its migration from the Straits of Belle Isle, on the coast of Labrador, to Texas. He found it breeding during his expedition to Labrador in 1831, and his son, John Woodhouse Audubon, discovered a nest on Galveston Island, Texas. He also received a report on the status of bird's range and other observations from his friend in Charleston, the naturalist, John Bachman.

"My friend, the Reverend Dr. JOHN BACHMAN, assures me that this bird, which some years ago was rather scarce in South Carolina, is now becoming quite abundant in that state, where, during autumn and winter, it resorts to the rice-fields. After feeding a few weeks on the seeds it becomes fat, juicy, and tender. He adds that the farther inland, the more plentifully does it occur, which may be owing to the many steamers that ply on the rivers along the sea coast, where very few are to be seen. They are, however, followed in their retreats, and shot in great numbers, so that the markets of Charleston are now amply supplied with them. He also informs me that be has known hybrid broods produced by a male of this species and the common domestic Duck; and that he had three of these hybrid females, the eggs of all of which were productive. The young birds were larger than either of their parents, but although they laid eggs in the course of the following spring, not one of these proved impregnated. He further states that he procured three nests of the Dusky Duck in the State of New York." 

In perfect condition, chromolithograph with additional hand coloring, This plate's excellent registration is enhanced by rich hand-coloring. 1860, double-elephant folio size, 38.75 x 26 inches.

 $8,750 this week only (list price $12,000). Offer expires 2-12-17.

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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.

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

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John J. Audubon, Plate 386 Dusky Duck, Birds of America, Bien Edition, 1860
Laura Oppenheimer 4 February, 2017
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