Lemurs are primates native only to Madagascar and make up most of the mammals depicted in the natural history portion of this work. Other sections of this work illustrated birds, mollusks, fish, butterflies and insects of Madagascar. John Gerrard Keulemans, an artist mainly known for his ornithological paintings, produced most of the bird illustrations for L’Histoire… and also contributed some of the illustrations of lemurs. Bocourt and Faguet, who did the rest of the lemur paintings shown here, were natural history artists whose works include botanical plates for other French works.
L’Histoire Physique, Naturelle et Politique de Madagascar was a collaboration between two French naturalists, Alphonse Milne-Edwards and Alfred Grandidier. Milne-Edwards’ particular areas of expertise were ornithology and paleontology, and his studies of the fossils of birds yielded significant scientific insights. He also made important discoveries related to mammals, particularly those of Madagascar and Central Asia. Grandidier used family wealth to finance expeditions to collect natural history specimens around the world. In 1865, his first visit to Madagascar initiated the project that became his life’s work and made a major contribution to scholarship. He crisscrossed the country on two subsequent journeys, mapping the country and making observations for L’Histoire… which eventually consisted of 40 volumes, the last of which were published posthumously by his son. As a result of Grandidier’s work, the French government became interested in Madagascar, and annexed the island in 1890. Grandidier was elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1885 and was the president of the French Geographical Society from 1901 to 1905.
John Gerrard Keulemans was the most sought-after bird artist in Europe from roughly 1870 to 1910, esteemed for his high standard of scientific accuracy. Working largely from bird specimens, he had a special talent for creating drawings that were both anatomically correct and aesthetically striking. A skilled lithographer as well, he was unusual among natural history artists in that he generally transferred his own drawings to prints. In his early twenties, the Dutch-born Keulemans was mentored by Dr. Herman Schlegel, a renowned zoologist and director of the natural history museum in Leiden, who brought him on an ornithological expedition to Africa and then hired him to the museum staff and encouraged his artistic development. Soon Keulemans attracted his own commissions for natural history illustrations, mainly from England, a center for study of the zoological specimens arriving from far-flung expeditions. In 1869, he received a major assignment from Richard Bowdler Sharpe of the Zoological Society of London to produce 120 lithographs for his Monograph of the Alcedinidae, or Family of Kingfishers and thereafter pursued his artistic career in Britain, illustrating monographs and scientific journal articles by leading ornithologists. He was one of several well-known artists who contributed to Lord Thomas Lilford’s Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands (1885-1897), a seven-volume work contained 421 plates, representing late 19th-century chromolithography at its best. Keulemans illustrated many volumes of the British Museum’s Catalogue of Birds (1874-1898). He also illustrated St. George Jackson Mivart’s A Monograph of the Lories, or Brush-tongued Parrots, composing the Family Loriidae, published in 1896.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Some variation on the paper tone on some to the next from white to cream color.
“Alfred Grandidier.” Wikipedia. 8 October 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Grandidier (9 March 2009).
Fontana, Elizabeth, ed. “John Gerrard Keulemans.” Beautiful Birds: Masterpieces from the Hill Ornithology Collection, Cornell University Library. June 1999. http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/ornithology/exhibit/exhibit5d.htm (3 June 2002).
“Notes and News [Obituary of Alphonse Milne-Edwards].” The Auk 17(3):320-321. 1900. Online at http://elibary.unm.edu/sora/Auk/v017n03/p0320-p0324.pdf. (9 March 2009).