Lot 45

AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851.
Wild Turkey. Meleagris Gallopavo. Linn, Male. American Cane Miegia Macrosperma. [London: c.1829-1830.]

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US$50,000 - US$80,000

AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851.
Wild Turkey. Meleagris Gallopavo. Linn, Male. American Cane Miegia Macrosperma. [London: c.1829-1830.] Hand-colored engraving with etching and aquatint by William Home Lizars in Edinburgh, retouched by R. Havell Junr in London, sheet size 974 x 645 mm (38.3 in. x 25.5 in.). The print laid down on board, with resultant light browning. The image window-mounted, close mounted at the lower margin, framed and glazed.

The finest image in Audubon's life-size depiction of the Birds of America, here in its 3rd variant, with more subdued (hence more realistic) coloring. Engraving number one in Audubon's first edition, double-elephant folio Birds of America. The Wild Turkey, that "true original Native of America" in the words of Benjamin Franklin, was chosen by Audubon to be the first image seen in his masterpiece. The composition is one of the most ambitious in the entire work; Audubon notes in his journal that he chose it in part to "prove the necessity of the size of the work" (December 4, 1826). It encapsulates the qualities for which Audubon became famous: it is large-scale and life-size, and conveys a sense of movement and suspense within a naturalistic setting. In this case that setting is the canebreak near Beech Woods, a plantation near St. Francisville, Louisiana, where, in 1825, Audubon spotted the bird which inspired the picture.
See Danny Heitman "A Naturalist's Feast for the Eyes" WSJ, Nov 2010; Audubon and His Journals, vol 1, 1897;
Susanne M. Low. A Guide to Audubon's Birds of America New York: 2002. Plate 1, state 3. "It is difficult to find this print in pristine condition. As the first one sent off to subscribers, it was proudly shown to family and friends, so that it was much handled."

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