Abraham Meertens
Middelburg 1757-1823 Middelburg
A Little owl (Athene noctua) on a Branch, looking up to the Left

PROVENANCE: Donald M. Bonnist, Mamaroneck, New York; Private collection, USA.

Pencil and watercolour, watermark a Crown with initials CR below, stamped on verso MADE IN HOLLAND, in upper left corner, inscribed on verso in pencil het Heen uise levensgroot

430 x 280 mm. (17 x 11 in.)


The little owl (Athene noctua) is a bird that inhabits much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and north Africa. This species is among the larger grouping of owls that is known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The little owl is a small owl, usually 8 inches tall with a wingspan of 22 inches for both sexes, and weighs about 180 grams.

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.