Artist : 
  • Buffon
  • Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux. Paris, 1770-83. Drawings by Francois Nicholas Martinet (175- - 1804). Engravings with later hand coloring. 7” x 10” Unframed. Germany, 1785. Engravings with original hand-coloring. 4” x 6 ½” Unframed. “This edition was certainly the most ambitious and comprehensive bird book…and ranks still as one of the most important…from the collector’s point of view.” (S. Sitwell et al., Fine BirdBooks NY, 1953. p 64.) Although Buffon studied law at Dijon, he devoted the greater part of his life to science and philosophy. An eloquent writer, his exquisitely engraved Histoire Naturell exuded an aristocratic elegance and charm and had built up such impetus that volumes went on appearing for some years after his death in 1788. A French poly math, Buffon was a prodigiously talented man whose interests and accomplishments ranged through mathematics, astronomy and all the sciences; his theories made him enemies as well as admirers. He was a member of the Royal Society in England and was appointed keeper of the Jardin du Roi, the precursor of the Paris Zoo. His Histoire Naturelle was a massive undertaking which covered the whole animal kingdom; in the text descriptions of the creatures were interspersed with philosophical discussions. Buffon's artists had their own ways of showing animals off to best advantage and always endeavored to make them look clean, neat and innocent. Usually, they gave them only a few stage props for company. Whether the animal depicted is a monkey or camel, it is shown as if in a tableau revealed to our curious gaze. The animals do not seem like wild beasts roaming free in their native land, but like actors performing among stage props and painted scenery for our benefit. These engravings, most done by Seve, had a considerable effect on zoological art. On balance, their influence was beneficial rather than harmful, but they are still just elegant set pieces which tell us more about Buffon and his circle than about the animals themselves. Reference: Buchanan. Nature Into Art. Mayflower. New York, 1979. Sitwell. Fine Bird Books. NY. 1953.
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