Beasts of Ephesus

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350 Year Old Photo Uncovered of Dodo Before It was Extinct

Posted by jase on July 7, 2009

A previously undiscovered 17th century picture of a dodo, drawn before the bird became extinct, is to be sold at auction by Christie’s.

The drawing, which dates from the late 1600s, offers a rare insight into the appearance of the flightless bird that was the first recorded casualty of human interference in the habitat of other creatures.

Dodos were the main predators on Mauritius until settlers introduced bigger animals to Indian Ocean island, including pigs. Many were shipped to Europe as curiosities or had their nesting areas destroyed and the species was extinct by 1700.

The 350-year-old drawing, described by Christie’s as “vibrant”, is one of a small number of images of the unfortunate bird whose demise was largely unnoticed until a dodo featured in Lewis Carroll’s popular 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Painted by an unknown artist of the 17th century Dutch school in about 1650, the unframed 10×8 inch picture is expected to fetch up to £6,000 when it is sold by Christie’s in London on July 9.

The auction house believes it differs from existing images, many of which were drawn from a small number of dodos that were put on display in Europe, some of which were later stuffed.

Little is known about the origin of the picture, which has never before been published.

The inscription above the bird, ‘Dronte’, was the Dutch 17th-century name for the dodo, although at this period it was also used in a number of other languages including French, German and Italian.

Julian Hume, a dodo expert and a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum, said the image was “very interesting but rather odd”.

“The lack of tail is anatomically correct – the ostrich-like plumes normally depicted are exaggerations – but this may be a fault by the artist,” he said. “The angle of the dodo is also novel, showing a 3D pose rather than the usual side view.”

He added that it was likely to have been copied from earlier drawings. “The image is somewhat based on Roelandt Savery’s 1626 image of the dodo standing by a rock. We know so little about the number of transported live dodo specimens, and coupled with repeated plagiarism of images, factual determination is almost impossible to obtain.”

Another dodo expert, Anthony Cheke, said: “There is always a lot of interest in artefacts like these because the dodo is such a curiosity. This is certainly an unusual image although the drawing is, frankly, not very good even by contemporary standards.”

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One Response to “350 Year Old Photo Uncovered of Dodo Before It was Extinct”

  1. madhukesh said

    i was very much useful

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