Hunting fodies (on the internet)

While I was researching my article on the Wakashio last autumn, I spent an inspiring couple of hours chatting to Carl Jones about the background of Ile aux Aigrettes, and fodies in general. In the background of our Zoom call I could see Carl’s amazing room, which is FULL of books, prints, and wildlife memorabilia from his lifetime of working with some of the most endangered birds in the world. He showed me a Mauritius kestrel print, and mentioned in passing that Fody prints are out there, too.

I didn’t think about it much for months and months, but then a couple of weeks ago I was Googling for fody images, and one link took me to Wikimedia Commons. They have an engraving of a nest, which is pretty awesome:

But what I was really after was a colour print of adult birds. The Commons page reminded me that the original scientific name for the Mauritius fody was Ploceus erythrocephalus; the ploceus genera are weavers, ‘erythro’ means red, and ‘cephalus’ means head- the red-headed weaver. So I googled for prints tagged with that, and hit gold! There is an early 18th-century print of the species, painted by a prolific ornithologic artist called Francois Nicolas Martinet, possibly for a volume called ‘Ornithologie’ published in 1760 by Mathurin Jacques Brisson, though I’m speculating on the purpose of it. The original appears to be in the collections of the special collections of the University of Amsterdam, so I went in search of copies.

A site in the US has a matched set of six prints including the fody one, but it’s slightly beyond my price point even though it’s beautiful. Various google searches suggested that copies were available on AbeBooks which I’ve used before for secondhand books. A Spanish seller seemed to have dozens of Martinet prints, but either listed by number or with the species names in Spanish. However for once I was able to be patient, and I looked though page after page of their prints waiting and hoping. I think it was page 23 (ten on each page!) before I finally found it but when I did I YELLED in excitement and made my son jump out of his chair. They had the fody print and it was only about £7! It was in my basked and ordered within seconds.

It arrived a few weeks later, packaged well and rolled in a tube. Because of it’s antique look I put it into a (cheap IKEA) gilt frame, and I think it looks AMAZING:

I’m building quite a collection of fody artwork. The Martinet print sits alongside this incredibly detailed painting by an Tony Mayo who painted it for artistsforconservation.org, a site where all proceeds go towards conservation. Tom bought me this one for my birthday.

Last but not least in the collection (so far!) is this, which my sister commissioned for me a few years ago from an artist in the US called Amanda Holmes who specialises in bird paintings on patterned backgrounds.

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