KEULEMANS, J. G (1842-1912). The Monkey-Eating Eagle, or The Great Philippine Eagle, Pithecophaga Jefferyi. Philippine Islands, 1896.
Single sheet (21 x 14 4/8 inches) matted and framed. A MAGNIFICENT ORIGINAL WATERCOLOUR DRAWING of the Monkey-Eating Eagle, or The Great Philippine Eagle, the NATIONAL BIRD OF THE PHILIPPINES, pencil, watercolour, bodycolour and black chalk, heightened with white on paper, with the artist's monogram "JGK" lower right.
Provenance: early 20th-century gallery caption on verso; with Christie's, New York, October 8th, 2015, lot 81.
This fine original watercolour remained unpublished until it was published on the cover of Oriental Bird Club, Bulletin 24, December 1996.
The Monkey-Eating Eagle, now officially known as the Philippine Eagle after a 1978 presidential proclamation and the national bird of the Philippines since 1995, is one of the largest and most endangered eagles in the world. "With a wingspan of nearly seven feet and a weight of up to 14 pounds, the species, Pithecophaga jefferyi, casts an impressive shadow as it soars through its rain forest home. Its long tail helps it skillfully maneuver while hunting for its elusive prey, like flying lemurs or palm civets.The raptor is currently documented on just four Philippine islands—Mindanao, Luzon, Leyte, and Samar. Scientists estimate that perhaps only a few hundred pairs remain in the wild." (National Geographic Magazine online)
The first specimen of the Eagle was collected in 1896 on the island of Samar by British naturalist and explorer John Whitehead. It was given the name Pithecophaga for “monkey-eating” and “jefferyi” to honor Whitehead’s father, Jeffery, who financed his son’s travels.
The watercolor depicts a majestic Eagle perched upon a tree branch surveying a striking background of a lofty mountain range with lush rainforest below. To the right of the main figure, another Eagle is depicted in flight with its wings fully outstretched.
Johannes Gerardus Keulemans (1842-1912), began his career as a taxidermist providing stuffed birds to the State Museum of Natural History at Leiden. The director of that museum encouraged Keulemans to pursue his love of natural history, where he obtained a scientific appointment after an expedition to West Africa in 1865 and 1866. His accomplishments in illustration came to the notice of Richard Bowdler Sharpe, later a director of the British Museum, who encouraged him to move to England. Keulemans quickly achieved wide recognition and established himself as the most popular bird artist of the late Victorian period. He regularly provided illustrations for "The Ibis" and "The Proceedings of the Zoological Society". He illustrated many important bird books including Buller's "A History of the Birds of New Zealand" (1873), Shelley's "Monograph of the Sun-Birds" (1876-1880), William Vincent Legge's "Birds of Ceylon" (1880), Daniel Giraud Elliot's "Monograph of the Hornbills" (1887-1892), Richard Bowdler Sharpe's "Monograph on Kingfishers" (1868-1871), Henry Seebohm's "Monograph on Thrushes" (1902), and Osbert Salvin's "Biologia Centrali-Americana" (1879-1904).
Keulemans has painted remarkable pictures of extinct birds, like the Choiseul Crested Pigeon, Kangaroo Island Emu, Huia, Stephens Island Wren, Hawaii Oo, Hawaii Mamo, Oahu Oo, Guadalupe Petrel, and the Laughing Owl. All these paintings can be seen in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. A leading figure in ornithological circles Henry Eeles Dresser was elected as a Member of the British Ornithologists' Union in 1865 and served as its secretary from 1882 to 1888. He was also a member and fellow of the Linnean and Zoological societies of London and an honorary fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union. He was a close friend of Professor Alfred Newton, Thomas Littleton Powys, 4th Baron Lilford and of Sir Alfred Russel Wallace. He knew all of the leading ornithologists of the day. He was particularly well-known to European, American and Russian ornithologists. He worked with Alfred Newton on the promotion of a "close time" for British birds, a period, during 1862, when birds could not be hunted. This early effort aided in the commencement of the bird conservation movement. In spite of Keulemans' prominence as an ornithologist, this activity had to come second to his business which, from 1870 until 1910, was in iron, with premises at 110 Cannon Street in The City.