Natural history

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"American Avoset"

Artist: Port Jackson Painter
Created: [between 1788 and 1797]
Dimensions: 47 x 26.5 cm
Reference: Watling Drawing - no. 336


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Bird shown in almost frontal view, its body turned slightly to the left, and its head in profile to the right. It is depicted standing on brown and pink up-tilted outcrop overlaid with grey serpentine lines, in front of a stretch of water represented by a gradated wash of blue through white, pale yellow and pink to blue, overlaid with short horizontal dark-grey lines in the foreground. There is a green headland on the horizon but an otherwise plain background. The bird's head and neck are red-brown overlaid with darker hatched lines, with a white ring around the eye. The back and underparts are white, with feathers under the tail outlined in grey, and the wing is black with a white stripe. The legs are pale blue-green with darker grey detail. The drawing is framed by a pencil border at the top and sides, with a black ink and wash base-line, and annotated in ink and pencil.


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  • Port Jackson Painter]
  • The drawing is annotated in ink at bottom "The Natural size This is a rare Bird, only been seen on some logoons A species of the Avocetta.".
  • The drawing is unsigned and undated.
  • The drawing is inscribed in ink at top right with the number "268.". This refers to the catalogue list compiled by John Latham c. 1801 which was acquired with the drawings, and is filed with them at the end of the Watling Drawings series.
  • The drawing is annotated in pencil at top "American Avoset Syn v. 295 Pl. 92". This has been copied in ink at bottom, "American Avoset, Latham Syn 5. p. 295. Pl 92". The page reference is to Latham's General Synopsis of Birds (1781-85).
  • This bird was more recently identified as the Red-necked Avocet, Recurvirostra novaehollandiae in Hindwood K. A. (1970).
  • The drawing is annotated in pencil at top "Lambert Drawing I. 47". This refers to a related set of drawings from the collections of the 13th Earl of Derby, held in the Library at Knowsley Hall, Lancashire.
  • 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 12336
  • James Lee of Kensington : purchased ; 1902
  • Data sheet available.
  • Latham, John. A General Synopsis of Birds. London: Benjamin White, 1781-85.
  • 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 209c, p. 197).