As in Audubon’s two watercolors of the Trumpeter Swan (1863.17.376; 1863.17.406), the artist’s powerful, robust adult male Tundra Swan―with its stalking pose and open bill―contrasts with the more conventionally graceful images of the ornithological tradition. Instead, JJA emphasized the length and massiveness of the male swan’s coiled, muscular neck, as well as the powerful feet that propel it through the water. He gave its length to the end of its tail as fifty-three inches, with a wingspan of eighty-four inches, stating that the female was somewhat smaller.

After consultation with Audubon, Havell engraved the lower anatomy of the bird in semi-translucent water. JJA also authorized the addition of the three yellow water lilies (Figure 1). He wrote about them in a letter to John Bachman (April 14, 1838): “Has Leitner published the New Plants he discovered in Florida? I ask this question because on . . . Plate 411. . . . I have represented a New Nymphea . . . I should like in my letter press [the Ornithological Biography] to name after Doctor Leitner’s name ‘Nymphea Leitneria.’” Dr. Edward F. Leitner was a German botanist who had been killed by Seminole Indians three months before; the lily was considered a figment of Audubon’s imagination, but in 1876 it was rediscovered and today is known as the Nymphaea mexicana. Its inclusion demonstrates Audubon’s active involvement in the changes introduced into the engravings.

John James Audubon (1785–1851)<br /><em>Tundra Swan (</em>Cygnus columbianus<em>), Study for Havell pl. 411</em>, 1838

John James Audubon (1785–1851)
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus), Study for Havell pl. 411, 1838
Watercolor, graphite, oil, black ink, black chalk, and white gouache? with touches of pastel and glazing on paper, laid on card
Purchased for the Society by public subscription from Mrs. John J. Audubon, 1863.17.411

Figure 1. Robert Havell Jr. after John James Audubon, Plate 411, <em>The Birds of America</em><br />(1827–38), N-YHS, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections

Figure 1. Robert Havell Jr. after John James Audubon, Plate 411, The Birds of America
(1827–38), N-YHS, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Museum & Library Map

Virtual tour

Find Gallery Spaces,
Special Exhibitions,
Rental Spaces,
and much more

Floor plan as PDF
Download floor plan as PDF

Address

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024

Phone (212) 873-3400
TTY (212) 873-7489

Sign up for newsletter
Connect with us
From the StacksSports Blog

Hours

Museum galleries and Museum store

Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday - 10am-6pm
Friday - 10am-8pm
Sunday - 11am-5pm
Monday - CLOSED

Patricia D. Klingenstein Library

Tuesday-Friday - 9am–3pm
Saturday - 10am–1pm
Sunday-Monday - CLOSED