BIRDS OF AMERICA
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON (1785 - 1851) PLATE
3663 - Engraved by R. HAVELL
JER FALCON (GYRFALCON)
ICELAND OR JER FALCON - Falco islandicus Now: Gyrfalcon, formerly Greenland Falcon - Falco rusticolus
IMAGE REF: AUD053
painting has a a cliff face behind the birds but Havell did not
include this in the prints. It is not clear from any surviving
print exactly what the dark area above the rocks is meant to
represent, the original painting shows blue sky here. After much
consideration it is believed to depict either low cloud or a fog
bank tinted dark pink by a low sun behind and to the left.
All surviving prints have suffered a dramatic
darkening of the sky, probably as a result of the decay of the lead
white body-colour that has over time converted to black lead sulphide (sulfide)
combined with degradation of the gelatine glaze from transparent to
dark beige. In most cases this darkening is so
intense that the image gives the impression of a night scene.
The yellowing of the paper has added to the effect. Both the
ground and the grass are extremely dark for the same reason. The
original watercolour appears to have not used white lead
body-colour, instead the ultramarine blue pigment has reacted with
acids in the paper causing it to become super-saturated so as to now
render the cliffs and grass in the most unrealistic of hues.