Pl. 132-133 Ruby Crowned Wren and Am. Gold Crested Wren
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON
TITLE Pl. 132-133 Ruby Crowned Wren American Gold Crested Wren
FROM The Birds of America, Bien edition
CONDITION Sheet 27 x 39 inches. Chromolithograph.
Framed. Three mended tears in left margin.
The Bien edition of Audubon's Birds is the rarest of all Audubon's printed works. Named for Julius Bien the German émigré who oversaw the work, the printing method of color lithography reflected a truly American interest in using the latest technology. It was hoped that chromolithography (color printed lithograph) would eliminate some of the inconsistency and expense of hiring artists to hand color the plates. Up to nine layers of transparent color were overprinted on each plate to achieve the rich painterly effects. It is estimated that fewer than 100 sets of 150 plates each were produced., Peter Marzio ex-curator of prints for the Amon Carter Museum and author of The Democratic Art, Pictures for a 19th Century America, calls the work Bien's "magnum opus" and states "this folio represents one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in American chromolithography". Marzio lists the plate from the Bien edition in his list of "Top Fifty American Chromolithgraphs". Due to the great expense of the complex printing process and financial difficulties brought on by the American Civil War, the publication was never finished and caused great financial hardship to the Audubon family.
This is an interesting example with two smaller birds printed on the same large sheet.