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BIRDS OF AMERICA BY JOHN JAMES AUDUBON (1785 - 1851)
PLATE 171

BARN OWL - RESTORATION NOTES

ORIGINAL PRINT - John Audubon, Birds of America, Havell Edition, Barn Owl, Plate 171, Strix flammea
To see the original, unrestored version, hold your cursor over the image

BACKGROUND TO THE RESTORATION OF THIS SUPERB IMAGE

There were two main problems with the original print. Firstly, the sky. It seems that Havell "over-cooked" the shading with his boiled resin etching technique, resulting in the background tone and most of the shading being overly dark.  He then appears to have attempted to correct this by having his colourists apply a heavy coat of light blue paint to the sky.  Unfortunately the pigments used, believed to be a combination of un-buffered French ultramarine and white lead, have reacted with atmospheric sulphides turning the light blue almost black. Lead white appears to have also been used as a  modifier in much of the other colouring.

 Run your cursor over the image to see the seriously ill effect of this unstable pigment. 

An indication of the true original sky colour, as now seen in the above restored version, can be gleaned from the Second Edition chromolithographic prints all of which display a clear blue sky. The restoration was a carefully chosen balance between the two.

The second main problem concerned the right eye of the lower bird.  For a description of this error and its correction please refer to the main page.

It is hard to believe that the original print was hiding such an exciting image, the full scale version of which is truly breath-taking. We have not come across any unbound, double elephant print of the Barn Owl that has not suffered in the manner described above.

Note: Barn Owls usually fly at dawn or dusk, they avoid flying at night.

 

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