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Ornithological Prints at Denbigh Farm  

Throughout the 1700s most of the draftsmen, engravers, and skilled artists that illustrated birds for ornithological studies were generally considered separate from the “fine” artists who painted birds solely for their artistic beauty. Despite their differences in approach, the aesthetic appeal of bird illustrations ultimately came to develop a recognizable and popular place in the canon of art history. In the 18th century, ornithological books were produced for identification and categorization purposes, developing alongside the scientific method of observing and documenting nature. Engraved plates were printed in black-and-white, with any coloring done by hand, a labor-intensive task that demonstrated exceptional skill and artistry. François Nicolas Martinet, a trained engineer, and draftsman produced illustrations of birds for books by some of the most influential ornithologists in 18th-century France. Martinet’s talent and experience earned him a prominent career as an ornithological illustrator in the rather difficult process of 18th-century printing. The development of Martinet’s bird illustrations is noted for their expressive realism and his contribution to works that became classics in the history of ornithology. Martinet has ties to some of the major contributors to the development of the scientific discipline, illustrating books by John Ray, Mathurin Brisson, and Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. Through working with these various authors, Martinet’s illustrations continued to capture the birds’ correct proportions and naturalistic postures, eventually leading the artist to independently produce his own plates in a collection entitled Histoire des Oiseaux, Peints dans Tous Leurs Aspects Apparents et Sensibles. Displaying fashionable folios of hand-colored prints in one’s home became more common, and individual, loose illustrations were sold for display in portfolios or on walls. Recognizing the artistic merit and preciseness of Martinet’s works makes possible a fuller appreciation of the beautiful hand-colored plates, Francois Nicolas Martinet (1725-1804): Histoire naturelle des oiseaux: Eighteen Plates, that are included in our upcoming auction, The Collection of Susie Hilfiger on April 19 & 20, 2023.  

Time & Location

The Collection of Susie Hilfiger at Denbigh Farm on April 19 & 20 at 11am

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