(1767 – 1809)
Parrots, Toucans and Birds of Paradise
Barraband was well-known for his work as an artist long before he came to work for famed French naturalist Francois Levaillant. From 1801-1805, these men collaborated on the world¹s best-known natural history work about parrots,Histoire Naturelle Des Perroquets. The pair would go on to collaborate on other great works, Histoire Naturelle Des Oiseaux Des Paradis et des Rolliers, (Birds of Paradise), and Histoire Naturelle des Promerops, (Toucans).
Jacques Barraband’s rendering skills are unparalleled. His prints of birds remain among the most lifelike in natural history art. His luminously colored engravings, combined with Levaillant¹s exact ornithological depictions represent a high point in the history of ornithological art.
In his work, the birds seem to glow on the paper, giving off an inner vitality that comes from a brilliant use of color, a near-perfect rendering of feathers, and a breathtaking mastery of the printing process. Barraband collaborated with Louis Bouquet and Langlois to create the engravings. The plates were then inked à la poupée (several of the same plates were inked with different colors carefully applied one over the other, as in modern color printing) then pulled from the press. Tonalities and shading were then added by hand.
At the turn of the century, Levaillant was among the new breed of scientists who began to travel the world to explore the areas indigenous to the subjects they studied. Working in partnership with an esteemed artist such as Barraband lent a cachet to his groundbreaking work and the resultant prints are clearly one of the most successful collaborations between artist and naturalist in ornithological history. We are proud to offer the fifty best of these images from the Field Museum’s collection.
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