Oil Painting by John Woodhouse Audubon Leads Maps & Atlases at Swann

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John Woodhouse Audubon, California Gray Squierrel, oil on canvas, 1853. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.
John Woodhouse Audubon, California Gray Squierrel, oil on canvas, 1853. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.

New York—Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books are on the block at Swann Galleries on Thursday, December 17. The sale will feature a strong showing of world cartography, as well as a standout selection of historical prints and paintings of the natural sciences. 

Natural history and color plate works shine, with John Woodhouse Audubon’s original life-size oil portrait of a California Gray Squirrel, circa 1853, leading the sale at $30,000 to $50,000. The Audubon name is synonymous with art of the natural world—most renowned for his iconic Birds of America, master naturalist John James Audubon expectantly encouraged and cultivated his two sons Victor Gifford and John Woodhouse to chase his passions for illustrating American wildlife. The work comes to auction by direct descent through the artist’s family. Works by John James Audubon feature in the sale with Night Heron or Qua Bird, offered at $25,000 to $35,000, and Black-Billed Cuckoo, at $4,000 to $6,000, both hand-colored aquatints and engraved plates from 1835 and featured in Audubon’s Birds of America

Further works of the natural world include William Jardine’s The Naturalist’s Library, 1843, with over 1,200 hand-colored engraved plates of animals, birds, fish and insects ($2,000-3,000). A group of 30 uncolored folio engravings from Hortus Eystettensis, 1613, by Basilius Besler is present ($7,000-10,000), in addition to other floriculture works including Henry Andrews’s The Botanist’s Repository, for New, and Rare Plants, 1797 ($3,000-5,000), and Alfred Cogniaux and Alphonse Goossens’s Dictionnaire Iconographique des Orchidées, with 803 fine small chromolithographed plates printed between 1896 and 1907 ($2,500-3,500). 

From 1511 is one of the earliest attainable printed maps to show the New World by Bernardus Sylvanus at $20,000 to $30,000. The modern geography is given stylish treatment with hachuring around the landmasses to add depth and with windheads surrounding the representation. Additional world maps feature Typus Cosmographicus Universalis, Basel, 1532, by Sebastian Münster with elaborate woodcut borders designed by Hans Holbein the Younger ($10,000-15,000); a prize example of Johannes Blaeu’s Nova et Accuratissima Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula, 1662, one of the most striking seventeenth-century Dutch world maps ($8,000-12,000); and a circa-1504 Ptolemaic world map printed in Strasbourg with decorative windheads by Gregor Reisch ($3,500-5,500).

Bernardus Sylvanus, Untitled World Map, Venice, 1511. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.
Bernardus Sylvanus, Untitled World Map, Venice, 1511. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.

Regional cartography includes a scarcely seen 1785 complete set of five manuscript maps of Japan’s surrounding regions created after Hayashi Shihei ($4,000-6,000); also from Asia is a small archive from the later part of the nineteenth century comprising a manuscript map presenting the town on either side of the Min River in China, and four pencil sketches rendering a sampling of the local landscape, architecture, and river vessels ($800-1,200). Europe is present with a scarce first edition of Lievin Cruyl’s Pianta di Roma Come si Trova al Presente Colle Alzate Delle Fabriche Piu Nobili Cosi Antiche Come Moderne, Rome, 1665, a sweeping perspective view of seventeenth-century Rome ($3,000-4,000); and a finely detailed mid-nineteenth century English map of Armenia, circa 1870s ($800-1,200). Maps of America are featured in Henry Popple’s Map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish Settlements Adjacent Thereto, London, 1733 ($1,200-1,800); a scarce map of the United States from Matthew Carey’s General Atlas of 1796, the first of its kind to be engraved and published in America ($1,800-2,200); and W.J. Keeler’s National Map of the Territory of the United States from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, Washington, 1867 ($2,000-3,000). 

Atlases and books containing maps are present with John Gibson and Emanuel Bowen’s Atlas Minimus, or a New Set of Pocket Maps of the Several Empires, Kingdoms and States of the Known World, London, 1758 ($2,500-3,500); a rare 1803 immigration guide offering prospective European settlers a frank account of the drawbacks and opportunities of pioneering within the wilderness of the eastern United States ($1,800-2,200); a scarce early-American geography manual with 25 of the 60 maps pertaining to the United States by Nathan Hale from 1830 ($500-750); and an example of Famiano Strada’s Famiani Stradae Romani e Societate Jesu de Bello Belgico, Rome, 1643–48, a historical compendium on the Dutch War of Independence against Spain ($1,000-1,500).

Historical prints of note include a rare series of seven large-format tinted lithographed plates from Isla de Cuba Pintoresca, circa 1865, showing panoramic landscapes of Cuban towns and harbors by Eduardo Laplante ($5,000-7,500). Currier & Ives is featured with Winter Morning. Feeding the Chickens, 1863, a large folio hand-colored lithograph of a mother and a young daughter tossing scratch to the chickens on a cold snowy morning ($1,200-1,800), as well as and an original box of Charles Currier No. 3 Lithographic Crayons, with nearly the entire gross of crayons intact in unopened individual packet wrappers ($500-750). William Hogarth’s first independently published work, Masquerades and Operas; or The Bad Taste of the Town, 1724, rounds out the offering ($1,200-1,800).

Additional treasures feature an astonishing large hand-drawn typographical devotional composition with over 150 engraved scenes of the Old and New Testament from the mid-nineteenth century Britain ($2,000-3,000); and Wagashi Seiho Koshu Roku Zokuhen, 1920, with 156 pages of color printed woodblock plates of traditional Japanese confectionary designs and recipes ($700-1,000).

Limited previewing (by appointment only) will be available through December 16, to be scheduled directly with the specialist in advance and conforming to strict safety guidelines. Swann Galleries staff will prepare condition reports and provide additional photographs of material on request. Advance order bids can be placed with the specialist for the sale or on Swann’s website, and phone bidding will be available. Live online bidding platforms will be the Swann Galleries App, Invaluable, and Live Auctioneers. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at www.swanngalleries.com and on the Swann Galleries App.

Additional highlights can be found here.


Lot 346A: John Woodhouse Audubon, California Gray Squierrel, oil on canvas, 1853. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.

Lot 241: Bernardus Sylvanus, Untitled World Map, Venice, 1511. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.

Auction date: Thursday, December 17, at 10:30 am

Specialist: Caleb Kiffer • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 17

Chief Marketing Officer: Alexandra Nelson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 19

Public Relations Associate: Kelsie Jankowski • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 23

Social media: @swanngalleries  

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Swann Auction Galleries is a third-generation family business as well as the world’s largest auction house for works on paper. In the last 75 years, Swann has repeatedly revolutionized the trade with such innovations as the first U.S. auction dedicated to photographs and the world’s only department of African-American Fine Art. More than 30 auctions and previews are held annually in Swann Galleries’ two-floor exhibition space in Midtown Manhattan, and online worldwide. Visit swanngalleries.com for more information.

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