After a decade-long search, Robert Peck, 57-year-old curator of art and artifacts and senior fellow at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Eric Newman, a 99-year-old numismatic historian from St. Louis, have recently located what they believe to be the missing image among the sample sheets of a contemporary Philadelphia engraver. They recount the details of their discovery in the Fall 2010 issue of the Journal of the Early Republic (available August 31). As The Academy of Natural Sciences reports:
The bird illustration itself merits special attention. Although the heath hen drawing lacks the glorious colors and monumental scale of the images found in Birds of America, its qualities presage those that distinguish the subjects in the later masterwork. This humble grouse is depicted in an active, life-like pose rather than the stilted dispositions typical of the time. Moreover, details of its pose and placement in its habitat demonstrates the artist's first-hand and thorough knowledge of his subject.Robert Peck suspects, however, that the bank note never made it into circulation. The bank probably found it unremarkable “especially in comparison to the majestic eagles, military heroes, and draped figures of Lady Liberty that typically adorned the paper money of the day. . . . A skittish, shy, running grouse doesn't instill great confidence in the bank,” Peck said
Listen to an NPR interview with Robert Peck about the discovery.
Image: Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society
Related LOA works: John James Audubon: Writings and Drawings