Elephant watercolour found for sale

I have been tracking down some illustrations that clearly served as models for engravings within the 1892 Waterlow & Sons and the 1906 Perkins, Bacon pictorial series among others. I have been writing up a couple of papers featuring these for possible inclusion in the LPS Journal, if Travis thinks that they make the grade.

I have also just found that one of those images, a pencil-and-watercolour elephant which I believe must have been the basis for the 1906 Perkins, Bacon 1 cent stamp, is currently for sale.

It occurs to me that - if there is a member whose pockets and commitment are deeper than mine - they might not thank me if they got to reading about it in some future issue of the LPS Journal, were minded to buy a thing of beauty, but then found that the painting had been long sold. So I thought I should mention it here and now.

The watercolour was produced around 1893 (to be an illustration for Richard Lydekker’s "The Royal Natural History") and is by Pierre Jacques Smit (Dutch-but-working-in-London, 1863-1960):
"Loxodonta Africana (African Elephant)"
Pencil and watercolor
Signed lower right: P.J. Smit
Paper size: 5 1/8 x 7 7/8 in.

It is on sale through a gallery in Philadelphia, at ... $15,000 (plus taxes, shipping, &c.)

Or you could look into the link and tell me whether you agree that this was surely the model for that 1-cent elephant.


  • I think you are correct about this watercolor. It looks about 99% true. I trying to collect the 1906 issue now. Will add this to my collection as a copy of the watercolor. Good work. Let me know if you find anything else on the 1906 issue. This issue is full of stamps to find. Some errors, many printers waste, imperfs, proofs and color trails. It's full of items if you can fine them. I'm 75 now and time is running out. Back to the hunt.
  • Thanks Martin. I saved the photo and did a A2 scaled print of it. Came out fine. That will go on the page with the others of #101 in my collection.
  • Albert - I am glad you liked the find. (I assume that you meant A5, or your album is an Album of the Gods). From the 1906 issue I also tracked down the image that must have been the basis for the 10-cent Giant Plantain-eater or “Great Blue Turaco” (Corythœola cristata).
  • Several of the 1906 issue illustrations were apparently taken from Harry Johnston's two volume book on Liberia according to Harry Heyman (LPS Journal Apr/May 2021)
  • Martin,the A2 scaled print is only 4 1/2 X 3 inches. Just the right size for my album page which is 8 1/2 x 11 inches. Can you let me know about that image of the Giant Plantain ? Would like to have that in my collection of the 1906 issue.
  • Albert - Well there is a cultural lesson. In the non-US world (where for example the output of chemical industry is expressed in thousands of metric tonnes, rather than millions of lbs) standardised international "A" sizes of paper would call your print-out "A7": "A2" would mean an enormous 16.5 inches by 23.4 inches - hence my wonderment at the apparent size of your album (which we would call "US letter" size). Even though we lived in Chicago for a few years, I was wholly unaware that the US has an entirely different set of "A" sizes.

    The Giant Plantain-eater illustration, I believe, came from Sir Harry Johnston's 1902 book "The Uganda Protectorate" (volume 1, page 401), painted at the other end of the bird's geographical range. The old (1939 and 1942) reviews of "Johnstonian" stamps by Benjamin Hamilton were really just descriptions of links to the illustrations in Johnston's book "Liberia", and I am not aware that the Uganda painting has been noted before.

    You can download from https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/177812#page/534/mode/1up. If that does not work well enough, I took a photo from the book itself, in The British Library, so please let me know.
  • For those who feel that they do not yet have enough Liberianness in their lives and living spaces ... I should note that the brand "East Urban Home" offer (at a very much lower price point) reproduction wall-art versions of more than thirty Harry Johnston paintings in a range of sizes and finishes (at least here in the United Kingdom).

    Of particular interest to catch the eye would be Johnston's Giant Plantain-eater (as above and as on Scott #104), Agama lizard (#105), Pygmy Hippo (#110) and Bongo (#163).

    Links from one internet supplier:
  • I see that this P.J. Smit elephant used on Liberia's 1906 stamp (the watercolour, I see, is still for sale, incidentally) has just turned up on two 2021 souvenir sheets "from" Djibouti: on one as a stamp, and on the other as a label. The hippo image is from Wilhelm Kuhnert.

    (As before, I have failed to upload the images using the "Attach image/file" buttons - so any clues would be very welcome).
  • These are from Stamperija, and are typical of Stamperija, so visible on their website.
  • Martin - in general, "Attach file" is for uploading any kind of file (typically a PDF or ZIP archive) and will produce a link to that file. There is a size limit of 50 MB per file.
    To display an image and not just a link to it, use "Attach image". It can handle *.jpg and *.png files. As a rule of thumb, stamps should be scanned at 600 dpi and covers at 150 dpi. If the image is wider than ~650 px, it is automatically resized to fit. It the image is wider or higher than 4000 px, "Attach image" will fail, but it should still be possible to attach it as file.
    If none of this explains why you couldn't upload an image just send me the image file and I will try to figure out what's going on.

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