Monday, August 22, 2011

Ornithologia Manetti

Hand-coloured engravings from Vol. 4 of Saverio Manetti's 5-volume treatise on birds from 1776:

'Storia Naturale Degli Uccelli Trattata con Metodo e Adornata di Figure Intagliate in Rame e Miniate al Naturale. Ornithologia Methodice Digesta Atque Iconibus Aeneis ad Vivum Illuminatis Ornate'

[Natural History of the Birds Treated Systematically and Adorned with Copperplate Engraving Illustrations, in Miniature and Life-Size] {source}

hand-coloured 18th c engraving of a Godwit (bird)

A godwit (migratory wading bird; genus Limosa)

engraving of a pelican, hand-coloured
Pink-backed pelican [possibly] (Pelecanus rufescens)

sketch of 2 canaries; one in tree on flying above
Atlantic or common canaries - Serinus canaria

18th c engraving of bedraggled orange-haired heron standing on 1 leg
Heron (genus Ardea)

Red Curlew (Genus Numenius)
Red curlew (genus Numenius)

action sketch of long-tailed tit
Long-tailed tit or Aegithalos caudatus (old name: Parus group)

18th c engraving of Grey Heron, wings akimbo
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)

drawing of a pink-headed stork standing on one foot
Stork species (genus Ciconia)

The Eurasian Bittern or Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) is a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae
The eurasian (or great) bittern (Botaurus stellaris);
a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae

Two swallows on the wing
Swallow species (genus Hirundo)

engraved illustration of a crane standing on one leg
Crane (family Gruidae)

Two species of hummingbird in a tree, one with a long tail (18th c engraving)
The collared inca hummingbird of Surinam (Coeligena torquata)
a steamer-tail hummingbird (genus Trochilus), the national bird of Jamaica

2 short-beaked birds, 1 in flight : flycatcher species
Flycatchers from genus Muscicapa and Oenanthe

engraving of a skylark and the head of another skylark species
Skylark - Alauda arvensis - and the head of a related species

[click through to larger versions; all care etc taken with the captions,
but they may be a little questionable at times]

Saverio [Francis Xavier] Manetti (1723-1785) was a prominent Florentine physician and botanist and a member of some of the leading scientific societies in 18th century Europe.

Manetti's extraordinary Natural History of Birds was commissioned by Maria Luisa, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, and the engraving and hand painting was undertaken - over the course of seven years - by the artists, Violante Vanni and Lorenzo Lorenzi. The series features both Latin and Italian text and Manetti followed the (largely deprecated) nomenclature system proposed by MJ Brisson, despite corresponding with the father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linneaus.
"The production of its five massive folio volumes must have been one of the most remarkable publishing ventures ever undertaken in Florence. Begun in 1767, and [based on birds taken from the collection of Giovanni Gerini], it was completed ten years later. It was larger, better engraved and more vividly coloured than any previous work on birds, but these are not its only claim to fame.

The attitudes of the birds themselves give this book its unique character. Strutting, parading, posturing, and occasionally flying....are birds whose real-life counterparts would surely disown them, and not without reason, for Manetti seems in these pictures to be depicting the human comedy, the habits and mannerisms of contemporary Italian society. His book may still be rated among the very greatest bird books, if only for its magnificent comicality."
[S Peter Dance: 'The Art of Natural History'*]
I don't think Volume 4 - the illustrations above - was overtly comical. It may be a naïve modern observer's point of view, but I got the feeling, while I spot-cleaned the background of these images, that the artists had a noble intention in mind when they tried to depict each bird with an individual personality. They are utterly charming and catch the viewer's attention, irrespective of whether or not there is total scientific accuracy in the design.

I found out later that the funnier 'portraits' (if they can be so-described) appear in the other volumes. I only discovered a couple more volumes online at the last minute and I haven't had a good look through : doubtless they'll be mined for another post or two in the future. This is a great series and deserves a proper showing. Somewhere or other I saw that a full set had fetched well into the 6-figure mark at auction. Unsurprising really. Original individual engravings sell for $750 or more.

Ornithologia methodice digesta by Saverio Manetti 1776 (title page - cropped)

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Neat. Thanks, as always.

I think that "pelican" is a Roseate Spoonbill.

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