SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson. John James Audubon, Relics, Grace Phillips Johnson.
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson
SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson

SPECIMENS OF BIRD FEATHERS & AUDUBON'S HAIR ; ...Formerly Properties of The Heirs of Grace Phillips Johnson

New York: Christie, Manson & Woods International Inc.: Published Catalogue entitled: HIGHLY IMPORTANT NATURAL HISTORY BOOKS AND AUTOGRAPHS / CHRISTIE'S CATALOGUE, Thursday, May 16, 1977. (Audubon association pieces). First Edition: Original specimens. Watered silk-over-boards. Tall folio (16 3/4" x 10 1/2" & 1/4" overlap), tri-fold green watered-silk case over boards with label, containing seven small envelopes (4 1/4" x 2 1/2") suspended in leather straps, each envelope contains a folded paper containing and protecting specimens of bird feathers from five different species of birds; plus a tangled strand of twisted gold wire wrapped with black thread; and a significant [~ 9"] lock of his hair---each envelope or piece being annotated in venerable ink identifying specimens once belonging to John James Audubon. Very Good / None. Item #5090

Christie's catalogue description for item 104 [page 112]: "AUDUBON (JOHN JAMES) FEATHERS FROM FIVE BIRDS, and Two Other Relics, each group carefully folded in paper and labelled." The "two other relics" are a gold twist and LOCK of AUDUBON's famous HAIR.

Audubon once described himself ... and his luxuriant hair as follows:

"I measured five feet, ten and one half inches, was of fair mien, and quite a handsome figure...hair, fine texture and luxuriant, divided and passing down behind each ear in luxuriant ringlets as far as the shoulders." (our italics; Rhodes, p.5).

Note, too, that Audubon's hair turned white in his later years (see Chancellor, color portrait of JJA, p.170).

AUDUBON SPECIMENS have been docketed by an early hand in ink on envelopes housed in the green portfolio:

1) "Wren Tail, 1814 [? Rustinline] Friday Morning" [Quotation on a specimen envelope.]

Editorial comments: On his birthday in April 26, 1812, Audubon turned 27 and had relocated to Flatland Ford in time for the spring bird migrations. Outside his studio, a pair of house wrens had nested, which periodically dove into the garden, pleasantly sang, and often looked in through the studio window at Audubon and his wife Lucy.

"One morning I took it [the house wren] in to draw its portrait, and suiddenly closing the window, easily caught it, held it in my hand, and finished its likeness, after which I restored it to liberty." (Rhodes, p.102 citing JJA's comments on Birds of America, plate 83)

When the War of 1812 wrecked his finances, JJA bought a large log cabin in Henderson, Kentucky, and moved in during early 1813. A year later, as the co-owner of two general stores, Audubon had serious concerns about the British blockade and ravaging of Washington, D.C., though spent much of his time happily as a merchant, with his family, hunting or on birding expeditions during which he also sometimes collected live birds.

These activities--combined with depradations to his pictures by nest-building rats--caused there to be no images of birds he likely viewed or drew during the period from 1815 (when JJA was 30) to 1820 (Rhodes, p.116). This makes the specimens of birds he collected that have been dated 1815 & 1817 very special.

JJA prepared "The House Wren" (Plate LXXXIII, or 83) for The Birds of America. "'Look at the little creatures,' he wrote about 'these charming birds that had nested in an old hat,' anxiously peeping out or hanging to the side of the hat, to meet their mother...'" (quoting Chancellor, p.170).

(Among several different species of wrens, Audubon executed portraits of Bewick's Wren, plate 18; the Great Carolina Wren, plate 78; the Marsh Wren, plate 100; Nuttall's lesser-marsh Wren, plate 175; the Wood Wren, plate 179; and the Ruby crowned Wren, plate 195; the Winter Wren and Rock Wren, plate 360 for Birds of America [BofA].)

2) "Cock Pheasant's Breast, 1815 Mrs. Bardsley" [Quotation on a specimen envelope.]

Editorial comments: We find no indexed reference for Mrs. Bardsley in Audubon's Journals, Chancellor, or Rhodes.

Despite constant felling of trees and the decline of bird populations, "the Wild Turkey, the Pheasant and the Grouse" remained "tolerably abundant." during his early years, though later declined. Subsequently, when Audubon was in Edinburgh during 1927, he painted a covy of pheasants flushing to escape a fox.

3) "Dal di sotto del ale del Sturmo 1817" [Our translation of the Italian is approximate: 'From below the wing of the Attacker-bird {hawk?} 1817'] [Quotation on a specimen envelope.]

Editorial comment: One notes that five years earlier in 1812, from a specimen of a pigeon hawk, JJA drew "Le Petit Corporal," which he named after Napoleon, then marching through Russia (BofA, Plate 75).

The Birds of America includes many plates of hawks: the Great-footed Hawk, plate 16; the Stanley Hawk, plate 36; the Red-tailed Hawk, plate 51; the Red-shouldered Hawk, plate 56; the Winter Hawk, plate 71; the Swallow-tailed Hawk, plate 72; the Fish Hawk, or Osprey, plate 81; the Black Warrior--its name perhaps being suggestive of the Italian--is plate 86.

Of the last mentioned, Audubon wrote:

"The Hawks now before you were discovered near St. Francisville, in Louisiana, during my late sojourn in that State, and had bred in the neighbourhood of the place where I procured them, for two seasons, although they had always eluded my search, until, at last, as I was crossing a large cotton field, one afternoon, I saw the female represented in the Plate standing perched on the top of a high belted tree in an erect and commanding attitude. It looked so like the Black Hawk (Falco niger) of WILSON, that I apprehended what I had heard respecting it might prove incorrect. I approached it, however, when, as if it suspected my evil intentions, it flew off, but after at first sailing as if with the view of escaping from me, passed over my head, when I shot at it, and brought it winged to the ground. No sooner had I inspected its eye, its bill, and particularly its naked legs, than I felt assured that it was, as has been represented by those persons who had spoken to me of its exploits, a new species. I drew it whilst alive; but my intentions of preserving it and carrying it to England as a present to the Zoological Society were frustrated by its refusing food. It died in a few days, when I preserved its skin, which, along with those of other rare birds, I have since given to the British Museum, through my friend J. G. CHILDREN, Esq. of that institution." [Citing a portion of JJA's commentary for plate 86; see audubon.org]

See also the Broad-Winged Hawk, plate 91; the Pigeon Hawk, plate 92; the Goshawk and Stanley Hawk, plate 141; the Night Hawk, plate 147; Black-Winged Hawk, plate 352; the Marsh hawk, plate 356; the Sharp-shinned Hawk, plate 374; and the Louisiana Hawk, plate 392

4).4) "Partridge Rump, 1828, Mrs. Marriot's Terrace " [Quotation on a specimen envelope.]

Editorial comments: The Virginian Partridge is plate 76; the California Partridge, plate 413; the Plumed Patridge and Thick-legged Partridge, plate 423 of Birds of America.

We find no indications of a "Mrs. Marriot" or her "Terrace" in our reference materials.

5) "Throstle" [Quotation on a specimen envelope.]

Editorial comment: "Throstle" is an old-fashioned term for a song thrush. A listing of thrushes painted by JJA includes: the Louisiana Water Thrush, plate 19; the Hermit Thrush, plate 58; the Wood Thrush, plate 73; the Ferruginous Thrush, plate 116; the Golden-crowned Thrush, plate 143; the Tawny Thrush, plate 164; the Little Tawny Thrush, plate 419 of Birds of America.

6) "Gold Twist, 1828 Mrs. Marriott Wellington House" [Quotation on a specimen envelope.]

Editorial comments: These "gold twists" have been wound with black thread, though not unwound or tested by us for its metalic or gold assay. The black wrapped-gold thread is in a tangle. Our guesstimate is that if unwound it might be 12-18 inches. Because Audubon was much fetted by wealthy British connoiseurs and often tried to sell subscriptions to underwrite his Birds of North America, this gold twist may be a mememto from such an engagement involving Mrs. Marriott given at a Wellington House party.

We have not found a definitive reference for "Wellington House." Though through World War I, there was a "Wellington House" located at Buckingham Gate, London. Presumably, it took its name from the famous British general, The Hon. Arthur Wellesley {1769-1852}.

7) "Meisters Hair--if you care for it. It's the best I could get for you." [Quotation on a specimen envelope.]

Editiorial comment: That the person ink-docketing our envelopes uses Italian and German is noteworthy. That person remains unidentified.

Description of Audubon's hair: Very fine; white or off-white and slightly yellowish, perhaps suggesting that it was taken in JJA's late life. It has been coiled and presented in an oval with a few tiny colored feathers. We have not fully uncoiled or stretched the strands because of the risk of breakage or fly-aways. A rough geometrical measurement indicates the hair is about 9-inches in length uncoiled. Nor have we removed any specimens--feathers, wire, or hair--from the Grace Phillips Johnson collection. Approximate weight of this beautiful gossamer lock: ~ .425 g.

The lengthy lock of JJA's hair has been preserved in an age-toned envelope bearing the collector's ink notation re "Meister's Hair." One envelope has been further protected by another envelope.

Condition: Together the collection consists of seven [7] small age-toned and ink-annotated envelopes with inner folded protective sheets presented in a large green watered-silk folder labelled "Audubon Relics." The folio watered-silk presentation case is very worn and frayed with one internal green silk panel detached. The small envelopes contain folded and often ink-annotated paper. The envelope paper labeled "Gold Twist" is watermarked "Turke[y] / 182[?8]".

The Christie's Catalogue is dated May 26, 1977; see the catalogue descriptive entry on p.112.

References:
audubon.org
Audubon, Maria, Audubon and his Journals, 2 vols., London, 1898.
Chancellor, John, Audubon: A Biography by John Chancellor, New York: The Viking Press, 1978.
Fries, W., The Double Elephant Folio, Chicago, 1973.
Rhodes, Richard, John James Audubon, The Making of an American, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Price: $7,500.00