Unpublished watercolour, pencil & ink illustrations by Arthur Bartholomew of the larvae (D12) and pupae (D222) two Emperor Gum-Moths, Opodiphthera eucalypti (originally identified as Antheraea Eucalypti), and their host plant. The caterpillars were collected from near Melbourne, and were grown in captivity until the moths emerged - see PZD 221 and PZD 226.

This work, commissioned by Sir Frederick McCoy, Director of the National Museum of Victoria as part of his zoological research, forms part of the much larger Prodromus Collection. Many of the original illustrations in the collection informed the production of the two volume work 'The Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria', the Museum's first major publication from 1878.

For more than 40 years, McCoy brought specimens to Bartholomew who observed and nurtured them specifically to illustrate them for the Prodromus. Bartholomew was methodical and the quality of illustrations was both consistent and accurate. In this illustration his method is clearly revealed. Having noticed a larva which had spun itself into a cocoon, or the emergence of a perfect moth from its chrysalis, he would then carry the specimen to his drafting table and set to capture its exact likeness and colour. Examining his subject under a magnifying glass, Bartholomew would first describe the form with fine pencil lines, before building up overlapping washes of watercolour and eventually adding glazes of varnish and gum Arabic. At last he would capture the colour saturation and level of sheen in each part of the specimen, achieving a subtle three-dimensionality reproducing both likeness and texture.

Publications such as the Prodromus reached a peak in popularity with the work of John Gould in England and the earlier work of James Audobon in America. In Australia, many professional and amateur publications, including Aldine's systematic studies of the colonies and Louise Anne Meredith's Bush Friends From Tasmania, contributed to the genre.The publication of the Prodromus was an enormous undertaking, utilising the work of numerous artists, collectors, lithographers and publishers, over an extended period of time. McCoy died without completing his systematic study, but even at the time few believed that 'any of us will live to witness the completion of the work, if the entire Fauna of Victoria is to be illustrated.' Although costly in both financial and professional terms, the Prodromus was met with critical acclaim and wide popular support. Financial battles were waged and lost by McCoy, but ultimately the Prodromus has stood the test of time and remains one of Museum Victoria's finest publications.

Description of Content

Emperor Gum-moth, Opodiphthera eucalypti, by Arthur Bartholomew. Illustration - pencil, watercolour, ink and varnish on paper, 27 cm x 25 cm. Drawing number 12, commissioned by Frederick McCoy as part of his zoological research.

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