Four Parrot Engravings by François Nicolas Martinet


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Object Description

A very decorative set of four engravings of parrots, by François Nicolas Martinet, from Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux, 1770–1786.
France, circa 1770–80.

Original hand-colored copper-plate engravings, signed in the bottom of the yellow border, mounted in decorative mats and custom chinoiserie frames. Exquisitely engraved and hand-coloured in the 18th century, these superb prints evoke the fashion for exoticism in the Enlightenment era Europe.

Object History

This exceptional set of hand-colored engravings is from Georges Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon’s work Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux, published in Paris from 1770 to 1786, for which Francois Nicolas Martinet provided all of the illustrations.

Over the course of his splendid career, François Nicolas Martinet (1731-1790?) engraved illustrations of birds for some of the most influential naturalists in 18th-century France, including François Salèrne, Mathurin Brisson, and, above all, Georges Louis Leclerc, le comte de Buffon.

Object Literature

Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux was the most comprehensive and noted ornithological work of the 1700s. It included a broad variety of birds native to Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Martinet was one of the greatest birds artists of the 18th century. He worked for the French court as an engraver and artist. Martinet’s illustrations are accurate and beautifully artistic.

Comte de Buffon was a respected naturalist and scientist. Buffon dared to challenge religious thought decades before Darwin. He suggested the Earth was older than 6,000 years and the common ancestry of apes and humans.

He directed the Jardin des Plantes botanical garden in Paris, which still exists today. His most outstanding achievement came in the field of natural history with the publication of the monumental Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière (1749–1788) in 36 volumes, for which Martinet created all the bird illustrations which were also published separately in Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux.

Object Condition

Fine antique condition, mounted in decorative gesso mats within custom chinoiserie frames

Object Details

  • dimensions
    W:40 x H:44.5 centimeters
  • period
  • country
  • year
    circa 1770-80

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