Sofia’s Regional Museum of History is now playing host to an exhibition entitled "Birds in Art and King Ferdinand I" showcasing for the first time original watercolours of the authors having illustrated one of the world’s most valuable ornithological publications – Naumann, Natural History of Central European Birds (Naumann, Naturgeschichte der Vogel Mittel-Europas). The exhibition focuses on King Ferdinand’s undisputed contribution to the development of the natural sciences, arts and museum work in Bulgaria, as well as his contribution to Bulgarian ornithology. For many years, the priceless collection of nearly 400 watercolours and illustrations was thought to have been lost or destroyed during the wars. In fact, however, it was preserved in Bulgaria.
“So far, it has not been regarded as an object of fine art”, says Christina Grozdanova, Chief Curator of the Museum's Art Fund. “Since their creation the illustrations published in 12 volumes in 1905 have been stored in various museums. Due to the repeated change of the institutions in charge of its preservation, the collection has been neither displayed nor studied so far. It is currently owned by the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, which has provided it for this exhibition”.
The exhibition also features works by Bulgarian authors created at the same time as the unique watercolours. These are works depicting birds and decorative-applied projects of the first and most famous artists who laid the foundations of Bulgarian fine arts. These include Ivan Milev who is presented in the exhibition with a project for the cover of a book entitled Forest Birds; Nikolay Rostovtsev, a well-known Bulgarian icon-painter, is shown with the artistic project of a woodpecker from 1926, exhibited along with images of woodpeckers by western authors.
In order to illustrate the works of artist Haralampi Tachev, a valuable sculpture of Vasil Zidarov has been provided by the Sofia City Art Gallery.
“It is curious that despite the differences in the style and the diverging approaches of the Western and Bulgarian authors, one can see the connection and the common thing in the painting of birds from nature. It is also interesting that they are painted with the help of stuffed birds. The exhibition also touches up the topic of hunting which at that time was related to research work and the work of the illustrators, Hristina Grozdanova points out.
The exhibition includes archival photographs of the Bulgarian King Ferdinand I and various other exhibits, including a set for serving game meat dating to the turn of the 20th century that is part of the palace property and four of the 12 volumes that are a bibliographic value in their own right.
“We have also presented one of the copies of the extremely expensive book "The Birds of America" by John James Audubon with a size of 101x152 cm. In one window we have exposed original paintings by Pavel Patev and Nikolay Boev, as well as a manuscript of the book "Birds of Bulgaria" published in 1950. Although it was published much later, it is extremely important, as this is the first edition with drawings of Bulgarian authors”, Hristina Grozdanova explains.
The exhibition includes a hitherto undisplayed official portrait of Bulgarian King Ferdinand I, of exceptional value, painted with oil paints, made by Nikola Mihailov, one of the foremost Bulgarian portraitists, author of portraits of dozens of important historical figures.
“Including this portrait in our exhibition is very important as it has not been displayed so far, which is curious, given the fact that the depicted person is of such a rank, and also that the artist is a known name”, says Kristina Grozdanova.“This portrait was provided to us from a private collection located in Germany and for this reason it has not been seen so far”.
The exhibition "Birds in Art and King Ferdinand I" will be open for the public until October 31st.
English version Rossitsa PetcovaPhotos: Desislava Semkovska