Le Sericule Orange, male from Histoire Naturelle Des Oiseaux De Paradis, the year 1835 by Réné Primevere Lesson, Paul Louis Oudart and Jean Gabriel Prêtre.

A rare complete set of three antique prints showing in great detail the famous Masked Bowerbird, a male, young male and female. Published in Paris France in the year 1835 (first edition) in "Histoire Naturelle Des Oiseaux De Paradis" (Natural History Of Birds Of Paradise), the first and most comprehensive work on birds of paradise entitled until John Gould's great monograph started appearing 20 years later. By René Primevère LESSON (1794-1849), a surgeon, pharmacist, naturalist on the round-the-world scientific voyage of the corvette La Coquille (1822-1825), led by Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont D'URVILLE (1790-1842) and Louis-Isidore DUPERREY (1786-1865).

The masked bowerbird (Sericulus aureus) is one of the most brilliantly coloured bowerbirds. The male is a medium-sized bird, up to 25 cm long, with flame orange and golden yellow plumage, elongated neck plumes and yellow-tipped black tail. It builds an "avenue-type" bower with two side walls of sticks. The female is an olive brown bird with yellow or golden below. The flame bowerbird is distributed in and endemic to rainforests of New Guinea. This species is the first bowerbird described by naturalists. Because of the male's beautifully coloured plumage, it was previously thought to be a bird-of-paradise. Indeed, the male flame bowerbird also has a courtship display along with his bower. He twists his tails and his wings to the side, and then shakes his head quickly.

LESSON studied these birds in their natural habitat during the expedition and was the first European to observe birds of paradise alive in the wild and was the first to describe a Bird of Paradise in flight when the voyage visited New Guinea in 1824. He brought back numerous specimens from the Australia, Moluccas and New Guinea. The voyage concentrated on the exploration of the Pacific Ocean, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Polynesia and South America. His classic monograph on these birds includes a synopsis of species with descriptions and synonymies and a treatment of each, at least 4 of which were new to European science.

A hand-finished engraved plate, heightened with gum arabic by Paul Louis OUDART (1796-1860) and Jean Gabriel PRÊTRE (1768-1849). Each illustration is numbered and signed by the illustrators. Like Redouté, OUDART was a pupil of the celebrated Dutch master Gerard van Spaendonck, and 'one of the outstanding French illustrators and bird painters' (Jackson op. cit p.382). He began exhibiting ornithological paintings at the Salon in 1819. PRÊTRE, worked at Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris and provided the plates for many of the important French natural history works published in the first half of the 19th century: as Anker notes, 'these works were illustrated in accordance with the highest requirements of the time by artists such as J.G. Prêtre'.

Colour-printed engraving with hand-colouring, this print effortlessly captures the exotic beauty of one of the most spectacular of all Birds of Paradise. These almost 200 year old prints are much sought after by collectors of these amazing birds and very suitable for framing. 

René Primevère Lesson
Masked Bowerbird, Le Sericule Orange, Year 1835, Réné Primevere Lesson (set of 3)
Publication Place / Date
Image Dimensions
Paris / 1835 ( First Edition )
24 by 16 cm
Hand Colouring
VG / Study images carefully.
Product Price
Product Number
USD 700
SKU #P.1933