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Mark Catesby (1682-1749)

The Painted Finch, the Blue Linnet and the Sweet Flowering Bay c.1722-6

Recto: Watercolour and bodycolour, over graphite. Verso: Pen and ink over graphite | 37.4 x 26.8 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 925875

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  • A watercolour of a painted bunting (Passerina ciris (L.)), indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea (L.)), and sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana L.). Inscribed in ink in the artist's hand: (top right) 'Tricolour. Ligurinus'; (bottom right) 'Linaria Caerulea'; (upper right corner) '44'. The verso of the sheet has a sketch of a swallow-tail hawk.

    Mark Catesby was born in Suffolk and was interested in natural history from an early age. In 1712, he travelled to the east coast of America with his sister Elizabeth, who had married a doctor who practised in Williamsburg, Virginia. Catesby spent seven years in Virginia collecting specimens and seeds for London buyers before returning to Britain. In London his drawings of birds and plants met with praise and a group of benefactors paid for his travel to Carolina in 1722. There, he made numerous drawings of the flora and fauna, working hard to ensure that his depictions were as helpful for an understanding of their subjects as possible. On his return to Britain, his drawings were reproduced in The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, which appeared in a series of volumes between 1729 and 1747. The first volume was dedicated to Queen Caroline, the second to Augusta, Princess of Wales. The original drawings from the volumes, which had been in the possession of Catesby’s widow until her death, were purchased by George III from the London bookseller Thomas Cadell in 1768.

    The painted bunting appears in Volume I, Plate 44, and the indigo bunting in Volume I, Plate 45, of Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands.

    For identification of the species depicted see James L. Reveal, 'Identification of the plants and animals illustrated by Mark Catesby for his Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands' in Phytoneuron 2013 and revised online version.
    Provenance

    Thomas Cadell; from whom bought by George III, 1768

  • Medium and techniques

    Recto: Watercolour and bodycolour, over graphite. Verso: Pen and ink over graphite

    Measurements

    37.4 x 26.8 cm (sheet of paper)

  • Other number(s)
    Alternative title(s)

    Recto: The Painted Finch, the Blue Linnet and the Sweet Flowering Bay
    Verso: The Swallow-Tail Hawk (preparatory drawing for RL 24817)