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.