Jean-Gabriel Pretre (French, Fl. 1824-1840) Tapir
(French, Fl. 1824-1840)
Watercolor on paper
Signed lower left: Pretre
Paper size: 6 1/2 x 4 in
Frame size: 13 1/2 x 16 1/4 in
George Louis LeClerq, Le Comte de Buffon, was superintendent for half a century of the Royal Gardens at Paris, and based his exhaustive, monumental “Natural History” on its extensive collections of wildlife. His detailed descriptions of hundreds of animals achieved immediate popularity: over fifty French editions, numerous translations, and hundreds of abridgments of his work appeared and influenced science into the 20th century. Begun in 1749, volumes of the Histoire Naturelle continued to be published well beyond the time of Buffon’s death in 1788.
René-Primevère Lesson took it upon himself to supplement Buffon’s monumental work in the as Compléments de Buffon in 1838, focusing on species of animals, especially mammals and birds, that had been discovered since the great naturalist’s death. Aside from this endeavor, Lesson prepared for an edition of Buffon’s complete works, which was also to include new species. These exquisite watercolors were commissioned by Lesson to serve as models for the engravings in his publications, and each is highly faithful to the pioneering work of Buffon. Lesson had the discrimination to select the most noted French natural history painters of his time, including such luminaries as Edouard Travies, Jean-Gabriel Pretre, Emile Blanchard, and Antoine-Charles Vauthier, for these original watercolors of birds. Each is delineated in deeply saturated, intense colors, often heightened with gum Arabic and white, and is so finely drafted that the textures of the birds’ plumage appear highly naturalistic. These watercolors, executed by some of the most notable names in French ornithological painting, illustrate the highest in quality from an unrivaled period of natural history art. Each is from the Jeanson collection and is mounted with gold borders.
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