John J. Audubon, Pl. 396 Red-headed Duck, The Birds of America, Bien edition, 1860, chromolithograph with hand coloring
Acquire a magnificent plate from the Bien edition of John J. Audubon's Birds of America, Pl. 396 Red-headed Duck, Fuligula ferina, Steph. Audubon's balanced and elegant composition portrays an adult female (left) and a male duck (right) on a sloping bank with grasses. Enjoy significant savings on this richly colored chromolithograph, this week only. The current name is Redhead, Aythya americanus, Eyton.
In his Ornithological Biography, Audubon remarks upon the unique attributes of the Red-headed Duck for which he had a special fondness.
In confinement, they do not exhibit that degree of awkwardness attributed to them when on land. It is true that the habitual shortening of the neck detracts from their beauty, so that in this state they cannot be said to present a graceful appearance; yet their aspect has always been pleasing to my sight. Their notes are rough and coarse, and bear less resemblance to the cries of those species which are peculiar to fresh water than those of any other of their tribe. Their flight is performed in a hurried manner, and they start from the water pell-mell; yet they can continue very long on wing, and the motions of their pinions, especially at night, produce a clear whistling sound.
The fine pair from which I made the two figures in the plate were given me by my friend DANIEL WEBSTER, Esq. of Boston, Massachusetts, whose talents and accomplishments are too well known to require any eulogium from me.
Reference: An Index and Guide to Audubon's Birds of America, Susanne M. Low, 1988, page 143.
$5,800 this week only (list price $8,500). Offer expires 2-26-18.
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 nineteenth-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 1827–1838.
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.
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