The European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), which Schouman also recorded, in a watercolour in the Lugt Collection1, is a crepuscular and nocturnal bird that breeds across most of Europe and temperate Asia. The Latin generic name refers to the old myth that the nocturnal Nightjar suckled goats, causing them to cease to give milk. Both in rural English and in Dutch, the bird is also sometimes called a 'goatsucker'. In fact, though, its wide gape is an adaptation permitting it to catch large moths in flight. Other colloquial Dutch names include 'Dagslaaper' ('Day-sleeper') and 'Opslokker' ('Gulper').
As Schouman writes on the verso, the bird depicted here was in fact a foreign specimen that he studied in the collection of 'de Heer..v. Heeteren', namely Adriaan Leonard van Heteren (1724-1800) a Director of the Dutch West-Indian Company, whose collection at the Lange Voorhout in the Hague Schouman visited in 1769 (also making there another watercolour of exotic birds, now in Rotterdam2). After Van Heteren's death, his collection of stuffed birds was sold, and on page 77 the entry for case 55, nr. 186, reads: "Een extra groote Dagslaaper, le grand Crapaud volant de Cayenne, zeer raar" ("An extra large nightjar, the great flying frog from Cayenne, very rare") - presumably the specimen depicted here.
In the December 1792 sale of Schouman's own collection, a drawing of "een uytlandsche dagslaap" (a foreign nightjar) is listed as no. 211 on page 7, but that watercolour was apparently dated 1775, so may not be the present work, which is likely to date from a little earlier (though not from before 1770, when Montbéliard's Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux, referred to in Schouman's inscription on the verso, was first published).
The collector's numbering on the verso was identified by Dr. Hans-Ulrich Beck as that of the Haarlem collector Jacob Helmolt (1747-1808), who would surely have known Schouman personally.3
We are extremely grateful to Charles Dumas, Ruud Vlek and Kees Roselaar for their help in cataloguing this drawing.
1. Paris, Fondation Custodia, inv. 1407-55
2. Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. MB 1608; see Een koninklijk paradijs. Aert Schouman en de verbeelding van de natuur, exh. cat., Dordrechts Museum, 2017, pp. 264, 336, no. 79, reproduced fig. 558
3. H.-U. Beck, 'Der unbekannte Zeichnungssammler Lugt 2986b identifiziert: Jacob Helmolt in Haarlem', Oud Holland, 107, 4, 1993, pp. 372-378
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