The Splendour of Birds

A Flight through Teyler’s Collection of Birds

Jul 17, 2021 to Jan 09, 2022

Step into a colourful aviary, discover the most beautiful illustrations of birds in the Teylers Museum collection and look for the differences between the world of birds as it used to be and as it is today.

People love birds. Birds have gorgeous colours, and can sing and fly. They have been studied, illustrated and described by bird lovers for centuries. The Teylers Museum collection is unique when it comes to the study of birds: the library holds the most beautiful books and the art collection includes magnificent drawings of birds. Studying birds is still a popular pastime today. Guns and paintbrushes have been replaced with cameras and binoculars. We can even peer into nesting boxes with webcams! The Splendour of Birds takes visitors on a flight along the most beautiful bird illustrations in the collection. Not only does the exhibition introduce you to the beauty and richness of the world of birds, it also reveals how biodiversity in the paradise of birds has changed from what it was 200 years ago.

Birds everywhere

In both the Exhibition Gallery and the Rare Book Room the most beautiful bird illustrations from the collection of the Teylers Museum are on display, from publications by Buffon, Gould, Catesby, Le Vaillant and Nozeman, and also colourful drawings by Schouman and Van Trigt. Stuffed birds from Naturalis complete the splendour of birds, together with a new work by the Haarlem taxidermists Darwin, Sinke & Van Tongeren. They found inspiration in the iconic flamingo in The Birds of America by John James Audubon (1785-1851).

Lifelike birds

In the 19th century, naturalists began to go into nature to study birds for the first time. As a result, the study of birds visibly changed. An important example of this is The Birds of America, which began to appear in 1827 and had a profound impact on how birds were studied and illustrated. This masterpiece depicts lifelike birds that seem about to fly off the page: richly coloured spoonbills along the waterside, yellow-green parakeets among the leaves or woodpeckers in a tree. With its 435 hand-coloured pictures, the book is one of the largest and most valuable publications ever. For the first time in 13 years, all five volumes in double elephant size can be seen together. The pages will be turned each week during the exhibition. Ornithologist and artist Audubon was responsible for innovation with his work; however, the exhibition also pays attention to the new awareness concerning the origins of The Birds of America, such as Audubon’s association with slavery and suspicions of fraud.

Family Activities

Visit The Splendour of Birds with your (grand) child, nephew, niece or the children next door. Step into the shoes of a birdwatcher and look for the differences between the world of birds as it used to be and as it is today. Biologist and TV presenter Camilla Dreef, ambassador of the Vogelbescherming (Dutch society for the protection of birds), poses a number of exciting propositions on video. Cast your vote and think along about the diversity of birds and the splendour of birds today, join a workshop or take part in the treasure hunt. 

The Splendour of Birds is organised in cooperation with the Vogelbescherming (Dutch society for the protection of birds) and Sovon (Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology), and was made possible with the support of a bequest of Marjon Rekoert and a contribution from the Teylers Museum Friends Fund.