Whether the purchase was refused or the family decision-makers ran out of time to consider it, the sale went ahead as planned.
Each man recalls different sums for the offer, but both numbers were larger than the .7 million auction total.
Bill Steiner, a birdwatcher, collector of Auduboniana, and author of Audubon Art Prints: A Collector’s Guide to Every Edition (University of South Carolina Press, .95) knows firsthand what a genius Audubon was.
Speaking of his Red-tailed Hawk, a dramatic and violent plate showing two predators battling in mid-air for possession of a freshly-caught hare, Steiner says, “I have seen that scene in nature three times. He got it right.” Audubon achieved this feat by venturing into the wild with his sketchbook and absorbing what nature showed him.
In 1839 Audubon released the first octavo edition of The Birds of America, a smaller version aimed at those with less-than-princely budgets; individual octavo prints today range from to ,500.
The aforementioned Bien edition, named for its initial printer, was one of the earliest casualties of the Civil War; John Woodhouse Audubon spent much of the year 1859 traveling the South and signed up 70 subscribers there, only to see those accounts destroyed by the hostilities.
The first was rendered by Englishman Mark Catesby circa 1739, the second by Scottish-American polymath Alexander Wilson and dating to 1808–12, and the last by Audubon, finished in 1826.
For these reasons, a worn, torn, faded, or otherwise injured Audubon print isn’t automatically dead in the eyes of the market. It’s a question of representation and misrepresentation and how well things are done,” says Oppenheimer, who offers conservation and restoration services through his gallery.
“You have to know what you’re doing and know what’s appropriate and what isn’t.” Rescuing and rejuvenating Audubons can be a crapshoot.
“The alternative is to throw it in the trash or display it in a compromised form, which would piss off Audubon.
BAY CITY, MI — Salvador Dali and John James Audubon are not names generally bantered about on the streets of downtown Bay City.