The great paucity of information regarding the Dodo led to general scepticism and denial that such a preposterous
bird could ever have existed; but this unbelief was ably combated by Duncan, manager of the Ashmolean Museum, who published in 1828 a masterly
essay on the Dodo. Ten years later, about 1838, Broderip substantiated whatever he could procure of proofs in a remarkably clear article. Then came
H.E.Strickland and A.G.Melville with a complete monography of the Dodo and its kindred, comprising an analysis of everything that had been written about
the bird till 1848, quoting Linnaeus, and Buffon, and the erroneous opinion of Blainville, who claimed that the Dodo was a bird of prey akin to the
Cuvier, although such a genius, wrote with almost incredible inaccuracy on the matter, and Lesson's composition on the same subject is just
as erroneous. Brandt, of the Imperial Academy of St Petersburg, placed the Dodo among the graillies, closely allied to the plover; Reinhardt of
Copenhagen, classified it among the pigeon tribe (Columbidae); and his conclusion was adopted by Strickland and Melville. They were soon followed
by Owen, who accorded the Dodo, a place in the order Rasores. The question remained in that state for 17 years, when the discovery of its remains
created a great sensation in the scientific world.
It did exist!
It is probable that sometime after the first visit of the Dutch to
Mauritius in 1598, some specimens of the Dodo were introduced into Europe as rarities; but no proof of this is forthcoming till about 40 years
Travellers to Mauritius made numerous sketches, many of which have been engraved. In course of time paintings were produced, actual
portraits having most likely been executed from living models.
De Bry, in his India Orientalis, has an interesting sketching showing for the first time the Walgvogel, as he terms
it, and the footnote mentions that the travellers brought a live specimen to Holland. From a sketch made by Van de Venne, Clusius, in his Exotica,
gave sometime afterwards, a drawing of the Dodo. The manuscript of Harmansen's travels, dated 1601-1603, and preserved in the Archives at The
Hague, contains five pen-and-ink sketches of the Dodo, some of which possess an extraordinary lifelike appearance. Strickland mentions several
paintings signed by Roelandt Savery, who was born at Courtrai, in Flanders, in 1556, and died in 1639. A picture preserved at Berlin represents the
animals in Eden; and in a corner stands the Dodo, beside which on a stone, can be read the author's signature : Roelandt Savery 1626. In another
painting by the same artist, bearing the date 1628, and now in the Belvedere Collection, Vienna, the Dodo forms part of a group of birds, and its
appearance is so natural that the painter must have certainly painted it from life. A portrait dated 1627, and signed Griemare is to be seen at
Sion House, in the Duke of Northumberland's Gallery. A drawing of the Dodo, attributed to the Dutch painter, Hoefnage, born about 1545, formerly
existed in the Library of the Austrian Emperor Francis I. According to Van Frammerfeld, this had been executed prior to 1626, from an original bird
which was kept in Emperor Rudolph's aviary. The Dodo's head, or rather part of its head, was accidentally found in 1850 at the Museum of Prague.
There still exist other paintings by Roelandt Savery ; one is in The Hague Museum, showing Orpheus charming the
whole creation and even the Dodo ; another is in the Broderip Collection, belonging to the London Zoological Society ; a third is in Pommersfeld,
near Bamberg, in the Schönbrun Gallery ; a fourth, formerly belonging to Dr Sayffery, is at Stuttgart. All of them are signed, although they bear
no date; but they all were probably executed between 1626 and 1628. The large Sloane picture in the British Museum has no date either. Another
still larger dated 1651 and attributed to John Savery junior, the nephew of Roelandt, is preserved at Oxford. At Haarlem, in the hands of Dr Van
der Willege, about 1840, was a picture without date attributed to Pieter holsteyn. Sir Thomas Herbert gives a rough outline of the Dodo, which
nevertheless is tolerably recognizable. Most of the illustrations mentioned above are produced in Strickland's work. But Mr. Alfred Newton is the
only person who gives one of the pen-and-ink sketches in Harmansen's manuscript.