Phaëthornis obscura (Obscure Hermit),
From A Monograph of the Trochilidae or Family of Humming-birds


Phaëthornis obscura (Obscure Hermit),
From A Monograph of the Trochilidae or Family of Humming-birds


Henry C. Richter
English, 1821–1902
After John Gould
English, 1804–1881
Printed by Hullmandel & Walton, London




Gould was particularly fond of hummingbirds. Over his lifetime he amassed a collection that exceeded 5,000 specimens. During the Great Exhibition, held in London over the warmer months of 1851, he took advantage of the vast Crystal Palace crowds to mount a display of 320 species of Trochilidae, all selected from his personal holdings, in the nearby Zoological Gardens. Attended by 75,000 visitors, including Queen Victoria, the exhibition ignited something of a hummingbird craze in Great Britain that extended until the end of the century. (In a single week in 1888, for example, over 400,000 hummingbird skins were auctioned in London.) Curiously, since hummingbirds were New World creatures, Gould didn’t encounter a live specimen until,  on a trip to the United States in 1857, he observed one during a visit to Bartram’s Garden, the botanical preserve created by naturalist John Bartram along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

When his wife, Elizabeth, died in 1841, Gould turned to a number of other artists to assist him in realizing the images for his various projects. Chief among these was Henry Richter, a specialist in zoological illustration who over the course of his association with Gould was responsible for designing more than 1,600 lithographs. For the Trochilidae, in addition to making the final drawings on stone, Richter was likely responsible for the somewhat luxurious approach to the hand coloring of the prints, which, in addition to watercolor, regularly featured the use of gold leaf overpainted with oil glazes in an effort to replicate the iridescent coloring of the hummingbirds’ plumage.

Object inscriptions: bottom center: PHAËTHORNIS OBSCURA, Gould; bottom left corner: J. Gould and H. C. Richter, del. et lith.; bottom right corner: Hullmandel & Walton, Imp.


Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, Gift of Joyce Gordon and Paul Lubetkin




This image is posted publicly for non-profit educational uses, excluding printed publication. Other uses are not permitted.


Lithograph with hand coloring; 21-7/16 x 14-3/4 in. (54.5 x 37.4 cm)