The famous dodo painting and its modern translation

“The modern interpretation of the dodo’s physique by palaeontologist Julian Hume. Photograph: Natural History Museum”
"Detail from the oil painting of the dodo by Roelandt Savery, which will be on display at the Natural History Museum." Image from The Guardian

The iconic painting of the dodo bird above, by Roelandt Savery circa 1626, will hang in the UK Natural History Museum starting January 21st, 2011, as part of the permanent exhibition Images of Nature. About Savery’s depiction of the dodo, Robin McKie wrote in the Guardian on Sunday: “The poor creature looks faintly absurd, which probably explains the inclusion of the image in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

For contrast, the paleontologist Julian Hume has painted a version to depict a more realistic image of what the dodo looked like. It will hang next to the original.

“Savery claimed he had painted the dodo from real life but there is a lot of evidence today to suggest he only saw preserved specimens,” says [Judith] Magee [the gallery’s new curator]. “These would not necessarily have represented the dodo in its proper original form. By examining the skeletons of dodos, we have produced this new image of the bird which depicts it in a different, and we believe more realistic way. The painting shows it having longer legs, a straighter neck, a less bulky body and a smaller head.”

"The modern interpretation of the dodo's physique by palaeontologist Julian Hume. Photograph: Natural History Museum"