LT. JOHN B. DALE (AMERICAN, 1814-1848) Chamelon, Madagascar
LT. JOHN B. DALE (AMERICAN, 1814-1848)
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Paper size: 10” x 14 1/8”
A charming drawing of a chameleon of Madagascar traversing a branch made by United States Navy Lieutenant John B. Dale. A small pencil sketch of an aerial perspective of a chameleon head is on the upper right of the page. The artists’ choice to depict this unusual species. Chameleons have a bizarre way of moving in which they slowly rock back and forth between each step taken, often in time with the movement of nearby leaves being blown by the wind.
In 1836, the United States Congress authorized nautical surveyor Charles Wilkes to command the U.S.S. Constitution on an expedition for scientific exploration. The purpose of the “Wilkes Expedition” was to better chart the South Seas for whalers, sealers, and China traders, while exploring lesser-known parts of the globe, such as Antarctica. The Wilkes Expedition was the last most comprehensive sailing journey ever attempted by the United States. One of three artists assigned to the U.S.S. Constitution was Lt. John B. Dale.
Madagascar is home to about half the world’s 150 or so species of chameleons. Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world and is home to 5% of the world’s plant and animal species. European contact with Madagascar began in the year 1500, when Portuguese sea captain Diogo Dias sighted the island after his ship separated from a fleet going to India. From about 1774 to 1824, Madagascar was a favorite haunt for pirates, including Americans, one of whom brought Malagasy rice to South Carolina.
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