Watercolour, watermark Strasburg Lily, stamped on verso MADE IN HOLLAND, in upper right corner, inscribed on verso in pencil Jekoe
430 x 270 mm. (16 7/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
Donald M. Bonnist, Mamaroneck, New York; Private collection, USA.
The long-eared owl (Asio otus, previously Strix otus) is a species of owl which breeds in Europe, Asia, and North America. This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, family Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping of owls are the barn owls, family Tytonidae. The long-eared owl is a medium sized owl, 1216 inches in length with an 3439 inches wingspan. It has erect blackish ear-tufts, which are positioned in the center of the head. The ear-tufts are used to make the owl appear larger to other owls while perched. The female is larger in size and darker in coloration than the male. The long-eared owl's brownish feathers are vertically streaked. Tarsus and toes are entirely feathered. Eye disks are also characteristic in this species. This nocturnal species is perhaps most easily seen perched in a tree in its daytime roost, sometimes in small groups during the winter months.
In 1972 the late Laurens Bol, then director of the Dordrechts museum and specialist on Aart Schouman, was invited to examine a group of about 100 watercolours of birds and animals which were believed to be by Schouman. The Hague dealer and collector Saam Nystad was asked to go in his place. Nystad established that they were not by Schouman but by his follower, Abraham Meertens. Nystad acquired the bulk of this group. It was at the insistence of the United States customs authorities that the MADE IN HOLLAND stamp was applied to the back of all the drawings1. Meertens entered the Academy in Middelburg in 1770 and was one its founders and later one of its directors.
Our drawing is typical of Abraham Meertens style and compares well to many of the artists works. The subject of our drawing was probably chosen from one of the fashionable menageries, such as the richly maintained royal collection of the Stadholder Prince Willem V at the Kleine Loo, in The Hague, and at the Oude Loo near Apeldoorn.
1. Amsterdam, Museum Het Rembrandthuis, and Dordrechts Museum 1994-5, Kleur & Raffinement. Tekeningen uit de Unicorno collectie, exhib. cat., p.26 and pp.118-9, cat.54. Another drawing from this group is now in a private collection, see Crispian Riley-Smith, Master Drawings, 7 July-12 July 2002, number 12 of A Black Cock and a Grey Hen.