Paintings Earn Millions For Historical Society

Posted: Updated:

The Indiana Historical Society says a pair of Audubon paintings has sold at auction for nearly $3.8 million. Proceeds will be used to buy "more Indiana-specific collections" and expand storage facilities. March 1, 2014

News Release

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Today's auction of the Indiana Historical Society’s (IHS’s) sets of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America and Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America resulted in successful sales through Sotheby’s New York for a combined $3.77 million.

The final purchase prices of $3,525,000 for The Birds of America and $245,000 for the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America were in line with initial expectations—IHS will receive $3 million and $200,000, respectively, as a result of the sales. IHS had conservatively estimated the items would bring a combined minimum of $3.3 million.

"Sotheby's was delighted to work with the Indiana Historical Society as they find new ways to tell the story of their great state,” said Richard Austin, Sotheby’s Vice President of Books and Manuscripts. “Today’s result reflects the prestige which IHS provenance brought these superb examples of ornithologist John James Audubon's ground-breaking work."

Proceeds from the sale will be used exclusively to fund acquisition of more Indiana-specific collections, and to build out enough archival storage space at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick History Center in Indianapolis to meet the organization’s needs for active collecting over the next 30 years.

In addition to more archive space, proceeds from the Audubon sets will help fund a new collections stewardship fund. The fund will be used to support acquisition of Indiana items that might otherwise slip away from the state, such as the Civil War letter from a Hoosier soldier with the 28th United States Colored Troops regiment that was sold at auction in March 2013.

"Proceeds from the auction of these items will allow IHS to realize several of its goals, helping us to do an even better job of being Indiana’s storyteller, connecting people to the past of our state," said IHS President and CEO John A. Herbst. "We look forward to the new stewardship opportunities this sale presents for us, and wish the new owners the same joy we have shared in possessing them."

About The Birds of America and Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America

Audubon's Birds of America series was sold by subscription, with small sets issued every one to two months from 1827 to 1838. Its 435 hand-painted plates depict America's native birds. Audubon developed a subsequent series featuring America's four-legged creatures, Viviparous Quadrupeds, which was published between 1845 and 1854 in three volumes with 150 vivid color stone lithographic plates.

The volumes were purchased by IHS decades ago, when its collecting mission was broader than today’s laser focus on the Hoosier state. The price was modest: $4,000 in 1933 for The Birds of America and $900 in 1951 for the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.

About the Indiana Historical Society

Since 1830, the Indiana Historical Society has been Indiana’s Storyteller, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving, interpreting and sharing the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, the Indiana Historical Society maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest.

In addition to maintaining its archival collections, the Indiana Historical Society presents a unique set of visitor exhibitions called the Indiana Experience. It also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups, publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; and provides youth, adult and family programming. The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, home of the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana Experience, is located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis. For more information, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.

Source: Indiana Historical Society