Birds from the Crystal Palace Show

Harrison Weir


Wood engraving; signed by ‘Smyth’.

13½ x 9¼ inches

Illustration for The Illustrated London News December 4 1858, p.522.

A good example of Weir’s capacity not only to represent the physical appearance of animals, but also his ability to suggest their varying behaviour. The image pretends to be realistic, but is of course an artificial arrangement – the birds would not have been in the same cage and Weir takes credulity even further by combining domestic species with exotic species such as parrots and parakeets. Apparently zoological, the image implicitly suggests the sort of harmonies preferred by creationists, and is absolutely at odds with the struggles for existence revealed by studies in evolution. Dated 1858, the illustration only slightly pre-dates the Darwinian revolution.

[Click on image to enlarge it.]