Vincenzo Leonardi (Rome 1589-1657) Study of a Citron-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata)
Lot 2
Vincenzo Leonardi
(Rome 1589-1657)
Study of a Citron-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata)
Sold for £76,900 (US$ 102,788) inc. premium

Lot Details
Vincenzo Leonardi (Rome 1589-1657)
Study of a Citron-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata)
inscribed '600' (lower centre)
watercolour on laid paper
28.7 x 30.2cm (11 5/16 x 11 7/8in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Cassiano dal Pozzo
    By descent to his brother, Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo
    By descent to his son, Gabriele dal Pozzo
    By descent to his son, Cosimo Antonio dal Pozzo
    By whom sold to Pope Clement XI, 1703
    Thence by descent to Cardinal Alessandro Albani, 1714
    From whom acquired by James Adam for King George III, 1762
    Sold from the Royal Library, Windsor, early 1920s
    Art market, London
    Sir Owen Morshead, and by descent through his family

    Literature
    H. McBurney, 'Cassiano dal Pozzo's drawings of birds', in Quaderini Puteani, I, pp. 44-5, fig. 30
    Exh. cat., The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo, British Museum, 1993, p. 171, no. 102, ill.

    The present study would have been painted from a live specimen since remarkably a great many species of parrot existed in collections in Rome in the early 17th century, such as that of the Duke of Savoy. The citron-crested cockatoo is the smallest of the subspecies of yellow crested cockatoo, and today is an endangered species. It is a native of the island of Sumba in the Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia and would have come to Rome via Dutch traders, so this particular creature was probably one of the most exotic and furthest-travelled of all the specimens of fauna recorded in the Museo Cartaceo.

    Only one natural history sheet in the Museo Cartaceo is signed, a study of an Italian sparrow in the collection of the Royal Library at Windsor; it bears the name 'Vin. Leonardi' on the reverse, in the distinctive italicised lettering with which some of the present group are inscribed, and it is the means by which a great many of the bird and animal drawings in the collection can be identified. Little is known of this obscure artist, but we know that Leonardi accompanied Cassiano to France in 1625 and that, as well as the watercolours he painted for the Museo Cartaceo, he illustrated two of the three publications which were linked to it: the Uccelliera (Aviary) of 1622, and Ferrari's 1646 treatise on citrus fruit, Hesperides.

    Of the various aspects of natural history that Cassiano recorded, ornithology seems to have been closest to his heart. He wrote a whole series of discorsi, or treatises, on different varieties of bird, his systematic investigation covering all possible details of the physiognomy, colour and size of the specimens he described. In 1624 Galileo had presented his newly-developed microscope to fellow Linceans, allowing study in far greater detail than had been possible before and transforming the possibilities for scientific documentation; appropriately the Accademia dei Lincei to which Cassiano belonged took its name from the famously sharp eyesight of the lynx, since detailed scrutiny was one of the bywords of the society. The precision with which Cassiano recorded the details of each specimen in writing is reflected in Leonardi's drawings. Cassiano's biographer, Carlo Dati (1619-1676) says that 'Cassiano was not content with the simple description and history of nature, but went beyond, in order to study its very anatomy'. In this respect he cast a long shadow, setting an example for natural history research not only in the seventeenth century but in the centuries to follow: his legacy is indeed hard to overestimate.
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