Matilda Hayes was the daughter of William Hayes (1734-1802), the British illustrator best known for A Natural History of British Birds (1775) and Rare and Curious Birds Accurately Drawn and Colored from Their Specimens in the Menagerie at Osterly Park (1794-99). One of Hayes’ seven children she worked with her father and drew bird illustrations.
A self-taught artist, Hayes worked from live specimens he kept in captivity, as well as birds from the collection of one of his patrons, the Duchess of Portland. Like Audubon, Hayes depicted birds at life size whenever possible. He presumably taught his wife Anne and children including Charles, William, Annette, Emily, Maria and Matilda with whom he worked at printing, colouring and assembling volumes, and some of his bird illustrations were drawn by other members of his large family.
In the mid-1780s, Hayes moved to Southall, near Osterley Park, and the estate’s owners, Robert and Sarah Child, of the banking family, who collected exotic birds, became his patrons. Horace Walpole described ‘a menagerie full of birds that comes from a thousand islands which Mr. Banks has not yet discovered’ (Walpole to Lady Ossory 21 June, 1773. (Lewis, ed. Walpole’s Correspondence, 1937), 126).
Hayes and his family also painted portraits of birds belonging to John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich.
The Red-bellied Macaw is a small, green macaw closely associated with the Mauritia palm tree of northern South America. It feeds on the palm’s fruits, and nests in a hole in a dead palm surrounded by water.