GERMAN BIRD ALBUM -- A manuscript album of original drawings of birds. [Schwoitsch, near Breslau: second half of the 17th-century].
2° (330 x 211mm). 38 ORIGINAL DRAWINGS IN WATERCOLOUR AND BODYCOLOUR OF BIRDS, including wild and domestic ducks, black, green and spotted woodpeckers, pied and yellow wagtails, a swallow, house martin, etc., on 30 paper leaves, 4 folding, each with identification (corrected for two birds) in German, written in a 17th-century German hand, on guards. (Occassional spotting and off-setting, one sheet repaired at fold, another slightly creased.)
A group of early German bird paintings apparently executed in Silesia, probably by a naturalist/game keeper on lands near Breslau (present-day Wroclaw). A number of the birds are identified as being from Schwoitsch (near Breslau), one from Pilsnitz, one from Bande, and an albino pheasant from Bohemia; all the birds are common to central and eastern Europe. Two of the birds have clearly just been caught and are painted hanging from a line. Another naturalist and keeper of forests of this date was Leonhard Baldner, who produced a record of birds and fish near Strassburg in 1666 (his original manuscript was sold in our rooms, 25 Oct. 1995, lot 56). The present drawings are reminiscent of Baldner in intention, but in execution they are much finer and show great artistic skill as well as close observation. Many German princes employed artists to depict their exotic botanic gardens, animals and birds, and in style these drawings resemble paintings of birds and flowers made by Johann Christoph Seyfried of Coburg for the Herzog of Braunschweig and Luneburg around 1672. Although anonymous, the origins of the present album must lie in similar circumstances: the named locations of many birds, the high artistic quality and the impression of a naturalist/game keeper painting birds from nature, all point to the album being an actual record of birds found on lands, possibly princely, near Breslau.