Natural history

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"Black Swan", native name "Mulgo"

Artist: Port Jackson Painter
Created: [between 1788 and 1792]
Dimensions: 24.3 x 19.3 cm
Reference: Watling Drawing - no. 351

 

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Drawing of a black swan in profile, facing to the right. It is depicted with its wings raised, floating on water which is represented by a gradated wash of blue through yellow and pink to grey, overlaid with short grey horizontal lines in the foreground, against a plain background. The bird is painted dark grey-black heavily overlaid with black hatched lines, except for white patches on the wings and the red bill and patch around the eye. The drawing is annotated in ink and pencil. It is framed by a pencil border at the top and sides, with a ruled black ink base-line, beneath which are the ink annotations and a scale drawn in black ink and wash to the ratio of 7.3 cm. to 1 foot.

 

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  • Port Jackson Painter]
  • The drawing is annotated at bottom with a "Scale of Feet" (1 foot = 7.3 cm.) in black ink and wash, and in brown ink, "The black Swan the size of an English Swan Native name Mulgo".
  • The drawing is unsigned and undated, but was published in London in 1792 (see note below).
  • The drawing is annotated in pencil at top right with the number "283.", which refers to the catalogue list compiled by John Latham c.1802 and filed with the Watling Collection.
  • The drawing is annotated in pencil at top "Black Swan Syn. Sup 2 343", and at bottom in brown ink "Black Swan Latham Syn Suppt 2. p. 343.". The page reference is to Latham's Second Supplement to the General Synopsis of Birds (1802).
  • This bird was more recently identified as the Black Swan, Cygnus atratus in Hindwood K. A. (1970).
  • A separate label is attached to the mount alongside the drawing at lower right. It is inscribed in pencil "Type GM".
  • The drawing was copied and reproduced in Shaw, G. and Nodder, P. Naturalist's Miscellany Volume 3, plate 108, London, 1792. Shaw acquired the original drawing from Thomas Wilson of London, who received it from John White, the surgeon-general to the colony in New South Wales. Shaw's pencil tracing of the drawing is contained in a book of his original sketches held in the General Library of the Natural History Museum (manuscript shelves).
  • John White describes his first sighting of a black swan on 15th April 1788 in his Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales, originally published in 1790. (see A.H. Chisholm (ed.),. Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales by John White. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1962. pp.121).
  • The author of this catalogue record is Suzanne Stenning.
  • By permission of the trustees of the Natural History Museum (London)
  • Two sets of transparencies held in the Natural History Museum (London) Zoology Library and Picture Library: Picture Library reference number 12351
  • James Lee of Kensington : purchased ; 1902
  • Data sheet available.
  • Latham, John. Supplement II to the General Synopsis of Birds. London: Leigh, Sotheby, 1802. (p. 343)
  • Shaw, G. and Nodder, P. Naturalist's Miscellany Volume 3, plate 108. London, 1792.
  • Hindwood K. A. 'The "Watling" drawings with incidental notes on the "Lambert" and the "Latham" drawings', Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales for the years 1968-69 (1970).
  • This drawing is reproduced in Wheeler, A. and Smith, B, The Art of the First Fleet and other early Australian Drawings. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1988. (Plate 243, p. 237).