This original chromolithograph is Plate 423 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 handsome engraving depicts a male adult Brown Pelican sitting on the branch of a Red Mangrove. Audubon reportedly painted this specimen while in the Florida Keys in the spring of 1832. Along with the American Flamingo, Snowy Owl, American Swan, and Wild Turkey, the Brown Pelican is one of the most desirable of Audubon's birds. The full sheet measures 25.25 x 39".
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 plates are even rarer than the first Birds of America edition.
References: Low, pp. 139 & 357.
Very attractive color with several soft creases that have been professionally reinforced and are now barely visible. Only three of the creases enter the image - one just touching the pelican's head and the other two just touching leaves at top left and bottom right. Professionally backed in Japanese tissue.