Aquila Nӕvia (spotted eagle) by Joseph Wölf and Henry Constantine Richter


Lithography of an Aquila Nӕvia (spotted eagle) by Joseph Wölf and Henry Constantine Richter for the distinguished work published by John Gould, Birds of Great Britain (1861-1863). These lithographs are after-colored by hand. The image is 40 x 31 cm (excluding text), the print is delivered in a beautiful passe partout. The total dimensions are 75 x 55 cm. The print is in excellent condition.

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Joseph Wölf (21 January 1820– 20 April 1899) was a German artist who specialized in natural history illustration. He moved to the British Museum in 1848 and became the preferred illustrator for explorers and naturalists including David Livingstone, Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates. Wölf depicted animals accurately in lifelike postures and is considered one of the great pioneers of wildlife art. Sir Edwin Landseer thought him “…without exception, the best all-round animal artist who ever lived”‘. Wölf’s abilities were widely acclaimed even in his lifetime. Wölf established wildlife art as a genre and his observation of living birds allowed him to produce illustrations in very accurate and lifelike stances. On occasion he would come back from a trip and produce very accurate sketches from memory. He was very careful in his observation of feather patterns and when he read the works of Sundevall and Nitzsch on pterylography, he had nothing new to learn. The zoologist Alfred Newton called him “the greatest of all animal painters”, while Landseer said that Wölf must have been a bird before he became a man. Wölf made numerous drawings in pen and charcoal as well as lithographs for scholarly societies such as the Zoological Society of London (he produced 340 “attractive” colour plates for the ZSL Proceedings in the course of 30 years), and a very large number of illustrations for books on natural history and travel published from various countries; and was considerably successful as a painter as well.  Until 1946, the cover of the journal Ibis carried a woodcut by Wölf of an Ibis against a background with ruins, a pyramid and a rising sun. In 1946 the sun was removed from the background; the design was entirely changed in 1948 due to excessive wear of the block. In 1865, J H Gurney named a species of harrier after Wölf but it was found to be an already described species. Wolf died in London, surrounded by his pet birds. He is buried in Highgate cemetery.


Henry Constantine Richter (7 June 1821 – 16 March 1902) was an English zoological illustrator who produced a very large number of skillful coloured lithographs of birds and mammals, mainly for the scientific books of the renowned English 19th century ornithologist John Gould. Many of the original drawings used by Richter as the basis for his coloured lithographs were by Gould’s wife, Elizabeth Coxen, produced before her death in 1841 Richter’s reputation was overshadowed by that of his much-celebrated employer. Since it was not customary to acknowledge illustrators alongside authors in the titles of publications, his name was forgotten. But in 1978 his great ability and the extent of his contribution to Gould’s work came to light, in the work of the researcher Christine E Jackson Richter was born in Brompton, London in England on 7 Jun 1821, into an artistic family. His father, Henry James Richter (1772-1857), was a philosopher, painter and engraver who was born in Soho, Middlesex, England to Mary Haigh, the wife of John Augustus Richter, an immigrant from Dresden, Germany – himself an artist and engraver.n Richter’s mother, Charlotte Sophia Edson (1793-1862), had married his father on 2 May 1818 in Marylebone, Middlesex, England. He was their first child. His birth was followed by that of his sister Antonia Charlotte (1823-1896) and his brother Charles (b.1827). A half-sister – Henrietta Sophia (1814-1896) had already been born to Henry James Richter’s first wife, Elizabeth Smith (1787-1816), whom he had married on 9 July 1808, and lost after eight years’ marriage. Henry James Richter became a well-respected and popular artist – he was a member, and president (1811-1812), of the Associated Artists in Water Colours, exhibiting frequently. He was also elected to membership of the Society of Painters in Oil and Water Colours. Several of his works are owned by the British Museum. John Gould was an experienced taxidermist, using his skill to preserve the skins of birds from his various worldwide expeditions. These skins were used by his artists to guide their illustrations, together with initial sketches made by Gould to indicate his requirements for the exact appearance of the finished images. The London Zoo was opened to the public in 1847 and was a further source of models of birds and animals for Richter’s drawings. Richter’s earliest published bird illustrations were three plates in the book Genera of birds (1844–1849) by George Robert Gray. The plates depicted the Indian Barn Owl Strix javanica, the head and claws of two other owls, and a member of the pheasant and partridge family, Clapperton’s francolin Pternistis clappertoni. His illustrations attracted the favourable attention of ornithologists. In 1841 Richter was contacted by the zoologist John Gould, who urgently needed an illustrator, after the death of his wife Elizabeth Coxen (1804-1841), because he had committed to producing various parts of his lavish books on certain dates. The Gould-Richter working relationship lasted for forty years, until Gould died in 1881. Richter created about 3,000 lithographic plates and watercolours for Gould.[6] Other illustrators employed by Gould included Edward Lear, William Matthew Hart and Joseph Wolf, although it was Richter who produced the vast majority of the works during Gould’s lifetime.  Amongst his best known illustrations are those of the male and female thylacine, from Gould’s Mammals of Australia (1845–63) – frequently copied since publication. For example, an Australian company Cascade Brewery used the image on the label for one of their brands of beer, in 1987. Previously, the Tasmanian Government had published a monochromatic reproduction of the same image, in 1934  and, earlier still, the author Louisa Anne Meredith also copied it for Tasmanian Friends and Foes (1881). In his will, John Gould wrote “I bequeath to my Artist H C Richter a legacy of £100 as a kind remembrance for the purchase of a [mourning] ring or any other article that he may prefer”. He seems to have been unconcerned about the impecunious state of his 60-year-old artist, although Richter had contributed so materially to his own prosperity for over four decades.After Gould’s death Richter gained a small amount of work for Gray’s Birds of Asia, and he prepared a plate for Sir Richard Owen’s Memoirs on the extinct wingless birds of New Zealand (1878—1879 ). Work already completed by him was used in Gould’s books that were published posthumously, such as Birds of Asia, but new plates for the books were commissioned from William Hart.Lacking a regular income after the death of Gould, Richter became dependent upon his sister, Antonia Charlotte.



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