Thursday, May 29, 2008

Histoire des Oiseaux


vulture head


owl head

Chinese birds




Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill head









buzzard head

"François Nicolas Martinet engraved illustrations of birds for books by some of the most influential ornithologists in 18th-century France. Born in 1731, Martinet was trained as an engineer and draftsman. Engraving illustrations for books probably began as a secondary profession, but as his popularity and output grew it must have consumed the majority of his time. Martinet's son Alexandre eventually assisted him and made many engravings, as is known from signatures and dates on the prints. Martinet also had two sisters, Angélique and Marie Thérèse, who were engravers as well, but it is not known if they worked with him. Towards the end of his career, Martinet drew upon his experience in engraving birds for others to publish his own ornithology books, producing plates until his death sometime in the late 1780s or early 1790s (sources disagree on the year).

To understand the significance of François Martinet's work, it is important first to recognize the difficulties involved in producing illustrations of birds in the 18th century. This provides a foundation for viewing the development of Martinet’s bird illustrations and their contribution to works that became classics in the history of ornithology and makes possible a fuller appreciation of the beautiful hand-colored plates in Ornithologie, the folio reproduced in this digital edition."

The detailed historical and bibliographic article about Martinet's legacy (by Leslie K. Overstreet and Kathryn E. Zaharek) provides an overview and introduction to a marvellous (and old) website from the Smithsonian Institution: 'Ornithologie by François Nicolas Martinet'.

The above images (extensively background cleaned) are a small selection from the more than one hundred and seventy plates available in large size format at the Smithsonian site. I'm fairly sure I've posted a couple of them before from their original publications - under a different author - but I can't seem to locate them. At least my tastes are consistent.


Unknown said...

Not sure where you got the tags for the pictures, but the bird you have tagged as a flamingo is actually a roseate spoonbill, and the bird tagged as mohawk is a hoopoe.

peacay said...

Oh thanks mveek I've changed them. Those names were ones I assigned about 6 months ago when I collected the images just as fast identifiers but I hadn't checked them. Taa.

Unknown said...

Many years ago, I purchased plate 153 (La Gelinotte de France) and only recently found the Smithsonian article on Martinet's work. I'm wondering if anyone knows the value of the etching; there is some foxing. Unlike the illustration on the Smithsonian site, the following is hand written on the bottom of my copy "chez Martinet rue du Coq, a Paris."

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