Saturday, 3 June 2017
Pieter Boel’s etching of ostriches, spoonbills and a cassowary, c.1672
Pieter Boel (aka Petro Boel; Peter Boule; Pierre Boule; Peeter Boel) (1622–74).
“Two ostriches, two spoonbills and a cassowary in a hilly landscape” (descriptive title only), from the series of six plates, “Several Birds”, 1670–74, published by Jean de Poilly (1669 - 1728) and François de Poilly IV (1671–1723).
Etching on fine laid paper trimmed along (or close to) the platemark and lined on a conservator’s support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 25.3 x 35.7 cm; (image borderline) 23.4 x 35.2 cm
Lettered below the image borderline: (left) "P. Boel del. / De Poilly ex. C.P.R. Rue St. Jacques a l’image St. Benoist.”; (centre) "1. des Autruches. 2. des Pals. 3. Casuel"
State ii (of iii) or iv (of iv) (I am uncertain whether the de Poilly brothers published this print before or after the Scotin I edition.)
Weigel 1843 184.12.II (Rudolph Weigel 1843, “Suppléments au Peintre-Graveur de Adam Bartsch”, Vol.I, Leipzig); Hollstein 12.II; TIB and Bartsch undescribed
The British Museum offers the following description of this print in its third state as published by Gérard Scotin I (1643–1715):
“View of a garden with two ostriches, two spoonbills and an emu in the foreground, a wide landscape with a house in the background; numbers 1-3 indicating different bird species in the composition, explained in a French key in the lower margin; third state with publisher's address; from a series of six prints showing birds Etching” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3013079&partId=1&searchText=des+autruches&page=1)
Note: the British Museum has the complete series of six plates of the series “Several Birds” online [without images]; see S.4421–4426: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx?searchText=S.4427
Condition: excellent impression in superb (almost pristine) condition. The sheet is trimmed along, or very near, the platemark and is laid upon a conservator’s support sheet of fine washi paper. There are a couple of inconspicuous wormholes in the sky.
I am selling this naturalist’s dream of an image from the 17th century showing what may be the very first image of a cassowary—it is not an emu as described by the British Museum—for the total cost of AU$330 (currently US$245.32/EUR217.50/GBP190.28 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this etching of the utmost rarity (so rare that it should be a prized possession of a museum of natural history), please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
This print has been sold
Pieter Boel created this amazing print around the time that he was working as a designer in the Gobelins tapestry workshop for the Sun King (Louis XIV of France). I mention this timeframe as I have a problem with one of the birds depicted: the cassowary, which is a large (and dangerous) flightless rainforest bird from my part of the world—the tropical far north of Australia (Queensland) and Papua New Guinea.
My “problem” with seeing a cassowary in a 17th century European print is that the bird wasn’t supposed to have been discovered until 1848 by the botanist, Wm. Carron, for the Kennedy Expedition, who remarked: “This morning Jackey went to examine a scrub through which we wanted to pass, and while out, shot a fine Cassowary; it was very dark and heavy, not so long in the leg as the common Emu, and had a larger body, shorter neck, with a large red, stiff, horny comb on its head; Mr. Wall skinned it, but from the many difficulties with which he had to contend, the skin was spoiled before it could be properly preserved" (see Alfred J North 1913, “On the Early History of the Australian Cassowary (Casuarius Australis, Wall)”, Australian Museum, Sydney, p. 1). Clearly Carron in 1848 was not the first European to see a Cassowary!