Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Hummingbirds: "
From scarlet to dusty gold,
to yellow flames,
to the rare
ashen emerald,
to the orange and black velvet
of our girdle gilded by sunflowers,
to the sketch
amber thorns,
your Epiphany,
little supreme being,
you are a miracle,
shimmering ..

Pablo Neruda - Ode to a Hummingbird [w]

book illustration of hummingbird
Le Stokes

19th century hummingbird illustration
Le Petit Rubis de la Caroline, sur une Mimeuse

adult hummingbird hand-coloured lithograph
Oiseau-Mouche Ensipenne, Plumage Complete d'Adulte

coloured lithograph 1833 hummingbird by René Primevère Lesson
Oiseau-Mouche Mediastin, Plumage Parfait d'Adulte

RP Lesson - ornithological illustration 1830s
Oiseau-Mouche Avocette, Jeune Age

colourful illustration of Trochilidae species, 1800s
Le Tricolore, Jeune Adulte

Trochilidae illustration by René Primevère Lesson
Oiseau-Mouche de Loddiges

René Primevère Lesson illustration of hummingbird
Le Buffon

bird sketch 19th century
L'Anais, Male en Plumage Parfait

illustration of hummingbird, RP Lesson 1832
La Caeligene

hummingbird illustration - perched on tree branch
Colibri faux Brins-Blancs

resting hummingbird in tree : 1832 sketch
Le Mazeppa

French physician and naturalist René Primevère Lesson (1794-1849) enlisted and served in the navy during the Napoleonic wars. In the 1820s he sailed around the world aboard La Coquille with a scientific expedition headed by Louis-Isadore Duperrey.

Chief among Lesson's duties during the voyage was collecting zoological specimens that served as the basis for a number of well regarded monographs. He is best remembered for the books he released on some of the most beautiful birds in the world: hummingbirds from the Americas and birds of paradise from New Guinea.

Notes on the Trochilidae family from the Internet Bird Collection:
  • Small to tiny fast-flying birds, with extensively iridescent plumage, many with strikingly coloured gorget or crest; thin bill extremely variable, from short to extremely long, from straight to sharply curved; feet tiny.
  • New World, mainly Neotropical.
  • Wide variety of habitats, wherever suitable food plants occur, from sea-level up to c. 5000 m, with greatest diversity in submontane zone.
  • 102 genera, 329 species, 684 taxa.
  • 29 species threatened; 1 definitely extinct since 1600.
The cropped and spot-cleaned hand-coloured engravings seen above were sourced from Volume Two of 'Les Trochilidées ou les Colibris et les Oiseaux-Mouches Suivis d'un Index Général dans Lequel sont Décrites et Classées Méthodiquement Toutes les Races et Espèces du Genre Trochilus ; Ouvrage Orné de Planches Dessinées et Gravées par les Meilleurs Artistes' [1832], online at Göttinger Digitalisierungszentrum.

  • Birdphotos has high resolution photographs of a large number of hummingbird species.
  • Via, or at least inspired by, Salzburg University Library's Book of the Month.
  • Short Wikipedia biography of René Primevère Lesson.
  • Previously: Gould's Hummingbirds (which post-dates Lesson by 60 years)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

David Klein’s Gorgeous Vintage Travel Posters

David Klein’s Gorgeous Vintage Travel Posters: "
Modern airlines take note: There’s something about David Klein’s brightly colored, and often abstract illustrations for TWA that manages to inspire wanderlust much more so than any present-day ad campaigns. In fact, his travel poster for New York was considered so iconic that it became a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in 1957. Click through to get a better look at his work, and let us know in the comments if you think Don Draper would approve.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Houdini: Art And Magic

Houdini: Art And Magic: "

The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles has not one, but two very appealing magic-related exhibitions opening April 28. The first, Houdini: Art and Magic, travels to us from New York. Featuring tons of Houdini-ana, the exhibition looks not only at the historical Houdini, but also at his enduring legacy. To that end, the exhibition includes a number of artworks by contemporary artists inspired by the Houdini legend, including such luminaries as Matthew Barney, Petah Coyne, Vik Muniz and Raymond Pettibon. The Skirball has created a second exhibition to give context to Houdini. This is called Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age, and it focuses on Houdini’s predecessors, colleagues and competitors in both Europe and the US, focusing on the years 1875 to 1948. The exhibition examines more than 40 fascinating careers, largely forgotten, and contains many outstanding objects, all displayed in “period” environments meant to evoke vaudeville stages, Victorian magic parlors and the like. Both exhibitions feature vintage photography, gorgeous promotional ephemera, original props and costumes, and rare documents, and Masters of Illusion includes four renowned automata.