Pencil and watercolour, watermark Strasburg Lily, stamped on verso MADE IN HOLLAND, in upper right corner, inscribed on verso in pencil Pronk vogel half levens groot
430 x 270 mm. (16 7/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
Donald M. Bonnist, Mamaroneck, New York; Private collection, USA.
The great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) is a member of the grebe family of water birds noted for its elaborate mating display. The great crested grebe is the largest member of the grebe family found in the Old World, with some larger species residing in the Americas. They measure 1820 inches long with a 2329 inches wingspan. It is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish prey underwater. The adults are unmistakable in summer with head and neck decorations. In winter, this is whiter than most grebes, with white above the eye, and a pink bill. The young are distinctive because their heads are striped black and white. They lose these markings when they become adults. Our watercolour probably represent a female.
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.