Dutch School Dronte

Dronte, Dutch School, 17th Century

I don’t care much for auction, unless is something really impressive, like the image above: A dodo. Yes, a dodo, but not a regular dodo image, a dodo watercolour from the Dutch School. The Dutch, the same people that colonized Mauritius, and a drawing is from the 17th Century, which means that the chances of that painting had a real dodo as a model were pretty high.

The Lot Notes from Christie’s page:

This previously unpublished drawing of a dodo is an important and interesting addition to the known images of this iconic extinct bird. First recorded by Dutch mariners who explored Mauritius in the last years of the 16th Century, the dodo was extinct by 1700, and has fascinated the popular consciousness ever since. Early images which are extremely rare, can usually be linked to one of a handful of prototypes. However, this vibrant study has no relation to any of the known visual sources. It rivals in vivacity the representations by Jacob Hoefnagel (circa 1610; National Library of Austria) and the head study, possibly from life, by Cornelis Saftleven (1638; Boymans Museum, Rotterdam; E. Fuller, Dodo: From Extinction to Icon, London, 2002, pp. 80-81, 111). The possibility that the present drawing was also sketched from life, while unlikely, cannot be completely discounted. Live dodos are known to have been transported from Mauritius as curiosities. A dodo was recorded at the menagerie of the Mogul Emperor Jahangir in about 1625 (Institute of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg; Fuller, op. cit., pp. 94-5); and, in about 1638, Sir Hamon L’Estrange saw a live dodo exhibited in London (Fuller, op. cit., p. 69). The present drawing is unusual, however, in the lightness of the plumage. It has some similarities to the colouring of the bird shown in a watercolour by Pieter Holsteyn (Teylers Museum, Haarlem), dating from the 1630s. Traditionally called the White Dodo of Réunion, the bird in the Teylers drawing is now thought to show an albino specimen (Fuller, op. cit., p. 170), which may also be the case in the present drawing.

The inscription on this drawing, ‘Dronte’, was the Dutch 17th-century name for the dodo, although at this period it was also used in a number of other languages including French and Italian.

So, I was fascinated for that incredible preciosity, but, there was a little problem, the price: Christie’s estimated it around £5,000 – £7,000. Actually my first thought was: that is too cheap for what it really is. I asked for donations, but, oh well, got none. And since I didn’t have all that money on my walled on that moment, I didn’t buy it (if I was millionaire I would easy try to buy it).

In the end, I didn’t buy it and the estimated price was really low: it was sold for £44,450. A much more reasonable price for it, in my humble opinion. It deserved a even higher price, however, I’m not the best person to estimate the price of a dodo image.

If you want to appreciate a bigger version of it, go to explore the Christie’s Zoom Image page.

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