Bocognano, Corse-du-Sud, Corsica, France
May 19, 1868
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Between 1830 and 1832 Lear published a series of highly coloured lithographs in Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae or Parrots, recorded from life of the birds found in the Regent’s Park Zoo. These helped establish Lear’s reputation as a natural history painter and during the 1830s, he became highly sought after, working on many of the great ornithological publications of the period. At the same time, between 1832 and 1837, he was based for long periods, at Knowsley; employed by Lord Stanley to record the thousands of birds and animals at his menagerie.
The present work was drawn at Surrey Zoological Gardens in April 1832. They were set up by Edward Cross in 1829 in the grounds of Walworth Manor, near Kennington. For a number of years, the Surrey Zoo proved more popular than its rival in Regent’s Park, despite it being less easily accessible. Cross, an affable character, was more than happy to allow Lear to study his collection.
The King Vulture is a native to Central and South America, found in lowland forests, as far afield as southern Mexico and northern Argentina. Although highly finished, this watercolour does not appear to have been engraved.