An astonishing collection of more than 800 original paintings of China’s birds has recently been discovered. The exquisite artwork thought to be by French missionaries, including Pierre Marie Heude, was found by the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) and dates from the late 19th century during the Qing Dynasty under emperor Guang Xu.
Heude was born in 1836 at Fougères in the Department of Ille-et-Vilaine, France. He became a Jesuit in 1856 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1867. He was sent to China in 1868 and, during the following years, devoted his time to the studies of the natural history of Eastern Asia, traveling widely in China.
He initially focused his attention on molluscs but then turned his attention to mammals and birds. He helped to set up a museum of natural history at Xujiahui in 1868, the first of its kind in China.
The newly-discovered paintings were displayed, for the first time, to invited guests at a special event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 8 January and there will be a public exhibition in Beijing on 28 March. It is hoped that the paintings may then be displayed around the country and overseas.
A very exciting find… Some photos of a few of the paintings are below.