LEAR, Edward (1812-1888). Fine original watercolour drawing of a Long-tailed Parakeet, or Malacca Parakeet. Before 1836

$ 37,000.00

Single sheet (7 3/8 x 4 4/8 inches). Exceptionally fine original graphite and watercolour drawing of a Malacca Parakeet, inscribed in pencil beneath the image by Lear "Palaeornis Malaccensis Plate.", top left "Plate 3[bis]", and signed by Lear in the image "E. Lear fct.", there is a further partially erased pencilled inscription along the lower edge.

Provenance: with Thomas. Agnew & Sons Ltd., London, after 1952; Private collection, UK; Bonhams, 23 Jun 2015, lot 15

A MAGNIFICENT AND DETAILED painting of a Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda), discovered by the Dutch physician and naturalist Pieter Boddaert (1730-1795), and published in John Selby's The Natural History of Parrots. Edinburgh: W.H. Lizars, 1836, as part of Jardine's extensive The Naturalist's Library. The parakeet is native to the regions of the Andaman islands and Nicobar islands in India, the Coco islands, Myanmar, peninsular Thailand, Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Kalimantan (including the Natuna Islands), Sumatra (including the Riau Islands), Indonesia and Brunei.

Lear's first published illustrations, for The Zoological Society, were of parrots. The gardens of the Zoological Society of London were opened in 1829, and in June 1830 Lear applied to make drawings of the parrots there. He became unofficial artist to the Zoological Society, illustrating a number of their minor publications and the first complete The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society Delineated, 1835.  Lear devoted the next two years to the illustrations of his own and justly celebrated "Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots", published for 175 subscribers in twelve parts between 1830 and 1832.   

Lear is probably better and fondly remembered for his books of nonsense and for popularizing the limerick, but he was also a prolific watercolorist, who as a young man earned his livelihood and achieved recognition as an illustrator of birds and animals.  Born in the north London suburb of Holloway on 12 May 1812, he was the youngest of twenty-one children born to Jeremiah and Ann Lear.  His childhood was one of outward prosperity but in 1825, his father, a stockbroker, was ruined by a financial crisis brought on by unfortunate speculation, and consigned to the debtor's prison.  At the age of fifteen the young and somewhat sickly Edward had to start earning his own living.  Initially, he tinted drawings of birds for shops and printsellers, also doing work for various hospitals and medical men - "I began to draw for bread and cheese about 1827," he wrote "but only did uncommon queer shop-sketches - selling them for prices varying from ninepence to four shillings; coloring prints, screens and fans; awhile making morbid disease drawings, for hospitals and certain doctors of physic."  This training suited him well and at an early age he was already taking pupils of his own.  In 1830, at the age of 18, Lear obtained permission to work as a draughtsman at the Zoological Society gardens, located at Regent's Park.  The following year he moved with his sister, Ann, to nearby lodgings in Albany Street, in order to be close to his work and during the course of the next two years devoted his time to recording the different members of the parrot family. He was encouraged in this task by N. A. Vigors, John Gould and Lord Stanley and between 1830 and 1832 "Illustrations of the Family Psittacidae, or Parrots" was published in parts. Catalogued by Kate Hunter