François Levaillant

1753 – 1824

Naturalist François Levaillant

François Levaillant was a naturalist, the son of the French consul to Dutch Guyana. 

Intrepid traveller, pioneering naturalist and famous author, Levaillant was a celebrity in his own lifetime.

His sumptuous bird books, highly sought after collectors’ items, were published in a golden age of French natural history book production.

Print artist Jacques Barraband

Print artist Jacques Barraband (1767-1809) is considered the foremost ornithological artist in nineteenth-century France.

He was admired for his ability to bring his subjects to life through conveying the texture of the feathers and the vivid coloration of the birds.

Barraband was well-known for his work as an artist long before he came to work for famed French naturalist François Levaillant.

From 1801-1805, François Levaillant and Jacques Barraband collaborated on the world’s best-known natural history work about parrots, Histoire Naturelle des Perroquets.

Jacques Barraband’s rendering skills are unparalleled. His prints of birds remain among the most lifelike in natural history art. His luminously colored engravings, combined with Levaillant’s exact ornithological depictions represent a high point in the history of ornithological art.

In this work, the birds seem to glow on the paper, giving off an inner vitality that comes from a brilliant use of color, a near-perfect rendering of feathers, and a breathtaking mastery of the printing process.

Barraband collaborated with Louis Bouquet and Langlois to create the engravings. The plates were then inked à la poupée (several of the same plates were inked with different colors carefully applied one over the other, as in modern color printing) then pulled from the press. Tonalities and shading were then added by hand.