What is the ‘Traité de Fauconnerie’?

Traité de Fauconnerie

‘Traité de Fauconnerie’  is one of Hermann Schlegel’s best-loved publications. Schlegel (1804-1884) created the book with a second author, his great friend and huntingparter Verster van Wulverhorst. 

The lost art of falconry

Schlegel Fauconnerie - Le vol du héron 2
Le vol du héron 2 (Flight of the heron)

In 1838, Schlegel developed a keen interest in the art of falconry, after he began hunting near the ‘Het Loo Palace’ (situated in Apeldoorn, close to the town of Ede).

Writing in his autobiography Schlegel described how he and Van Wulverhorst often talked about falconry and how his friend had already created a small publication on the subject.

Schlegel also explained how determined he was to discover the secrets of the lost art of falconry which had become almost completely forgotten in Europe. He was excited to uncover the history of the art and ‘Traité de Fauconnerie’ was the result. 

Schlegel credited his friend’s contribution to the publication by including van Wulverhorst’s name on the title page. He regarded ‘Traité de Fauconnerie’  with particular personal importance as it was the publication that led him to discover Joseph Wolf, whom Schlegel described as an “unsurpassed animal painter.”

Print artist Joseph Wolf

Le lanier hagard. Traite de Fauconnerie. Hermann Schlegel. Giclee Print
Le lanier hagard. Print artist Joseph Wolf

‘Traite de Fauconnerie’ is described by the English ornithologist James Edmund Harting as: “The finest work on falconry which has ever been produced, not only on account of the beauty of the plates, wherein the hawks are depicted life-size and of the natural colour but also for the general accuracy of the letterpress.” 

The artwork for this publication was created mainly by Joseph Wolf. His evocative falcon illustrations established him as a talented bird artist, leading to commissions from other important ornithological authors, including Daniel Elliot and John Gould. 

Commenting on Wolf’s work, the Scottish bird artist Archibald Thorburn said: “There is an indescribable feeling of life and movement attained by no other wildlife artist.” 

Meanwhile, the English painter Sir Edwin Landseer described Wolf as: “without exception, the best all-round animal painter that ever lived.”

Each bird is depicted life size

Le tiercelet hagard de faucon d’Islande. Traite de Fauconnerie. Hermann Schlegel. Giclee Print
Le tiercelet hagard de faucon d'Islande. Print Artist Joseph Wolf
L'épervier sors et le mouchet hagard. Traite de Fauconnerie. Hermann Schlegel. Giclee
L'épervier sors et le mouchet hagard. Print artist Joseph Wolf

The publication includes many different birds including the White Falcon, the Iceland Falcon and the Merlin, plus falcons of Europe including the Kestrel and the Sparrowhawk. The publication also includes depictions of the instruments used in falconry, plus information on the terminology of falconry and the history of falconry.

With each bird depicted at life size, the publication was created in the large Atlas folio format of 27.5 x 21 inches (70×53 cm).

Less than 100 copies of ‘Traite de Fauconnerie’  were published and only around half of these are thought to have survived.

Teylers Museum

Taken from the original illustrations in the libraries of Teylers Museum in the Netherlands, the collection ‘Traité de Fauconnerie’ containes 18 prints after the hand-colored originals and 
6 prints after uncolored originals.