Natural history

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"Birds of Norfolk Island"

Artist: Raper, George
Created: [1790]
Dimensions: 48.4 x 32.5 cm
Reference: Raper Drawing - no. 69


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Drawing of two birds perched on a tree stump against a plain background. The bird on the left is depicted with its body pointing left and its head turned in profile to the right. It head and upperparts are predominantly black overlaid with hatched lines except for white patches on the forehead and wing. It has a red breast and white-grey underparts. The larger bird on the right is depicted in almost frontal view with its head turned in profile to the left. It is coloured dark grey overlaid with darker hatched lines, except for the head which is pale grey with a yellow patch around the eye. The bill and feet are also yellow. The tree stump is pink-brown overlaid with grey-green dots and marks, shaded to the right, and is set on a small patch of ground represented by a yellow wash with layers of green, grey and red-brown serpentine lines. The drawing is framed with a thick black ink line and a triple-banded border, the central band of which is coloured with a pink wash and contains the title, signature and date. Most of the outer band appears to have been lost through the drawing having been cropped.


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  • George Raper]
  • The drawing is inscribed in black ink at the bottom, in the outer band of the border, "BIRDS of NORFOLK ISLAND Natural Size - GEO: RapeR # 1790 ~".
  • The drawing is signed "GEO: RapeR" and dated 1790.
  • The drawing is inscribed in pencil at lower left and right with the number "69", and on the reverse "61".
  • The birds were identified by Hindwood (1964) as the Scarlet Robin Petroica multicolor (male), and the Grey-headed Blackbird Turdus poliocephalus.
  • Raper was stranded on Norfolk Island following the wrecking of the Sirius on 19th March 1790, returning to Port Jackson in the Supply on 11th February 1791. An account of this time can be found in Hunter, John, An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island (London, 1793), pp.171-201.
  • 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) General Library and Picture Library: Picture Library order number 15169
  • Miss Eva Godman donated 1962
  • Data sheet available.
  • Hindwood, K.A. 'George Raper: an Artist of the First Fleet', Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 50, Pt. 1, 1964 pp.32-57.
  • Wheeler, A. and Smith, B, (eds.) The Art of the First Fleet and other early Australian Drawings. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1988 (pl.185, p.173).