Description & Technical information

A Long-Tailed Hermit Hummingbird (Phaethornis superciliosus), a Crimson Topaz Hummingbird (Topaza pella), and a Green-Throated or a Black-Throated Mango Hummingbird (Anthracothorax viridigula or Anthracothorax nigricollis)

Previously identified as a long-tailed sylph hummingbird, the bird depicted at the top of the sheet appears to be a long-tailed hermit hummingbird, which inhabit the forest undergrowth of Venezuela, the Guianas and northeastern Brazil. Both males and females of the species share a similar brown plumage, although females tend to be slightly smaller in size. The breeding season of the long-tailed hermit hummingbird is quite long, lasting from December or January all the way through to August or September, depending upon the flowering of their preferred feeding plants. In order to find a mate, males sing in communal leks - groups of dozens of males gathered to engage in competitive displays of courtship - and wiggle their long tails until the females choose the best singer as a partner.
Found in a number of countries across northern South America, the crimson topaz hummingbird lives in the upper and middle canopy of lowland forests, up to around five hundred metres of elevation. They are a sexually dimorphic species - one in which males and females exhibit distinct characteristics from one another - which is most notable in their varied plumage and size. Males are larger and their colouring changes from beak to tail, with a deep crimson purple back, while their bellies and breasts are a vibrant orange-red and their throats are an iridescent green. By contrast, the females are smaller – being just slightly longer than the length of the male’s tail feathers, between thirteen and fourteen centimetres – and they have mostly green plumage with orange outer tail feathers. 
The final bird depicted has previously been identified as a green-throated mango hummingbird, but it is equally possible that the bird is a black-throated mango hummingbird. Both species are native to South America and thrive in similar habitats. The plumage of the males and females sharply contrast one another; males are a mixture of iridescent blues and greens, whereas females are green and have white chests with a stipe down their middles. The difficulty of properly identifying the bird in the present sheet is caused by the fact that, based on its colouring, this particular hummingbird is a female, and the plumage of female green-throated and black-throated mango hummingbirds are so inseparably close that it is nearly impossible to tell them apart.

Medium: Watercolour, pen and brown ink and wash, with framing lines in pencil
Signature: Signed and dated Edouard Travies pt. 1835. in the lower margin.

Dimensions: 170 x 100 cm (66⁷/₈ x 39³/₈ inches)
Provenance: Marcel Jeanson, Paris
Thence by descent until 1988
Jeanson sale, Monaco, Sotheby’s, 16 June 1988, lot 298
Richard J. Schwartz, Upper Nyack, New York and Lyford Cay, Bahamas
Thence by descent until 2017.

Literature: Achille Richard, Oeuvres complètes de Buffon, Paris, 1838, Vol. XIX. 

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints