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John Halphead Smith, A duck, probably a Blue-winged Teal, in profile

A duck, probably a Blue-winged Teal, in profile, 1840

John Halphead Smith (1826 - 1896)

RA Collection: Art

A detailed watercolour of a duck. The bird is shown in profile with its head turned to the right. Its feathers are mostly speckled brown with a stripe of blue, white and green on the wing. The head is brown with a white patch at the front from the eye to the neck and the beak is also brown. This is probably a Blue-winged Teal, or anas discors, a bird found mainly in the Americas.

This drawing is one of a set of twelve watercolours of ducks and geese. The group is part of the bequest of Gilbert Bakewell Stretton, the artist's grandson, and is accompanied by a letter stating that the drawings "are specimens or duplicates of a series painted by my grandfather John Homes Smith of Worcester from living and dead birds for T.C. Eyton (Author of A Monograph on the Anatidae or Duck Tribe London 1838). This gentleman intended at the time to publish an elaborate illustrated book on this branch of ornithology but I cannot discover that this was ever done."

Eyton's book was published but the illustrations, though very similar to this set, are by Edward Lear and other artists not J.H. Smith. It is possible, as Stretton suggests, that these drawings are merely specimens produced for the author's perusal or that they were for another of Eyton's book projects which never came to fruition. Eyton published an abridged version of the Duck Tribe and a number of other books on ornithology but Smith's illustrations do not feature in any of these publications.

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Object details

A duck, probably a Blue-winged Teal, in profile
John Halphead Smith (1826 - 1896)
Object type
Watercolour and pencil on cream wove paper

27.6 cm x 38 cm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Bequeathed by Gilbert Bakewell Stretton 1949
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