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American Flamingo (Plate 431) from 'Birds of America'

John James Audubon (1785-1851)

Produced between 1827- 1830 

Engraved and hand-coloured printed plate

1m x 75cm closed


This print of an American Flamingo is by John James Audubon and is part of his work  'Birds of America' (1826-1838). ‘Birds of America’  is one of the greatest treasures of the Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books at The Fitzwilliam Museum, and was one of the first things bought for the Museum. The five volumes contain  435 engraved hand-coloured pictures and are  so large that when they are  opened they are  approximately the size of a coffee table. The plates  were printed on the largest possible size of paper, called double elephant folio, and the volumes are a  whooping 1m x 75 cm when closed.

In 1820, Audubon declared he would paint every bird in North America, and devoted the next twenty years of his life to this obsession. At first Audubon was unable to find funding to have his enormous work  printed, so he travelled to Britain to stir up interest with exhibitions of drawings , and to sell animal skins and feathers. Audubon’s influence was far reaching, and his field notes made when observing the birds have made a significant contribution to the understanding of bird anatomy and behaviour. Charles Darwin even quoted him three times in 'On the Origin of Species' and in later works.


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