This original chromolithograph is Plate 293 from the double-elephant folio Bien edition of Audubon’s great work on American ornithology. Audubon traveled throughout the U.S. and recorded 435 life-size images of every native bird in the country, depicting them in natural poses in their native habitats. This lovely engraving depicts two males and one female, amidst berries and toadshade. Although the ruff of the male bird in nature is closer to black in color, Audubon's prints of the Ruffed Grouse show variations in color of the ruffs from black to velvety blue. The male at right is showing a partially raised ruff. The full sheet measures 39.4 x 26.5".
Julius Bien was among the pioneers in developing chromolithography (an early form of color printing) in the United States. The Bien edition was initiated by John Woodhouse Audubon, the younger of the two Audubon sons. Originally conceived to be a full reissue of the 435 images in 44 parts consisting of ten images each, the project was discontinued in 1860 after only 15 parts had been issued. As a result, these prints are even rarer than the first Birds of America edition.
References: Low, p. 52-53.
Professional repairs to a few small chips and tears confined to blank margins.