London. 1829. Double elephant folio print, framed. Near fine condition. Item #WRCAM25797
Audubon's depiction of the Mississippi Kite appeared in 1829 as plate 117 in THE BIRDS OF AMERICA. This plate aroused considerable debate at the time, because many natural historians were quick to note the similarity between the lower of the two birds shown and the rendering of the same species in Alexander Wilson's AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGY, issued in 1809. Audubon was detested by Wilson's loyalists in the Philadelphia scientific establishment of the day. Lead by George Ord, who had completed Wilson's work after his death, they felt that Audubon over- romanticized his work and had no scientific ability. They seized on this obvious cribbing from Wilson as another example of Audubon's perfidy.
Indeed, it is difficult to understand why Audubon found it necessary to lift a bird portrait from Wilson, so vastly his inferior as an artist. The other kite shown provides a magnificent contrast, demonstrating how extraordinary Audubon's talents were.