This is a finely executed, large-format watercolor rendering of the Dodo Bird, perhaps the most celebrated of extinct animals. In ornithological style, it depicts the bird’s head (profile) and one of its feet. It appears to have been derived from a plate that appeared within an important study of the Dodo by the celebrated zoologist Henri de Blainville.
The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus, by the Linnaean classification Didus ineptus) was a large, flightless bird endemic to the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. It was first definitively encountered by Europeans in 1598; however, hunting and the introduction of invasive species to the island resulted in its extinction by 1662.
The Dodo, having been about a metre tall and between 11 and 21 kilograms, had long been viewed as a giant, clumsy creature (thus the name ‘ineptus’), aspects which hastened its extinction. However, recent studies of Dodo remains have suggested that this characterization was perhaps untrue, and that the Dodo was well adapted to its environment before the arrival of Europeans, but like so many creatures, could not adapt to the new dangers with which it was confronted.
The present watercolor appears to have been derived from a plate within an important study of the Dodo by the eminent zoologist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville (1777 – 1850) in the Nouvelles annales du Muséum, vol. IV (1835), pp. 1-36 (which is noted in the lower right corner of the present work). It is thought that the present manuscript was likely made in Germany, as it was found with other sketches of a similar style by a German hand.
Well-executed, large-format antiquarian manuscript renderings of the Dodo are very rare.
References: Cf. Henri de Blainville, Nouvelles annales du Muséum, vol. IV (1835), pp. 1-3; Hugh Edwin Strickland & Alexander Gordon Melville, The Dodo and its Kindred (Cambridge, 2014), pp. 35-45.