Jungle Orchids and Hummingbirds Artist: Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819–1904)


American Paintings and Sculpture

Not on view

From early boyhood, I have been almost a monomaniac on hummingbirds. —Martin Johnson Heade

Charles Darwin’s landmark book On the Origin of Species inspired painters to look anew at nature as dynamic and evolving. In 1863 Martin Johnson Heade, an aspiring naturalist, made the first of three trips to Brazil to paint the brilliantly colored hummingbird, creating at least forty-five canvases, including Two Hummingbirds with Their Young (2011.127.1), which documents a shimmering family of Sappho Comet hummingbirds. Although Heade’s plan to publish an illustrated book on the birds was never realized, the artist’s fascination continued unabated. Beginning about 1871 and continuing for over thirty years, he painted a series of pictures that combined hummingbirds with living orchids, such as this one. Drawing on his own earlier experience as a sometime-ornithologist, and using living orchids for the first time as a painter’s subject, Heade created a unique American genre.


Oil on canvas


18 1/4 × 23 in. (46.4 × 58.4 cm)

Credit Line

Christian A. Zabriskie and Francis P. Garvan, B.A. 1897, M.A. (Hon.) 1922, Funds

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.

  • James Prosek and Edith Devaney, James Prosek: Art, Artifact, Artifice, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2020), 91, pl. 70
  • Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 29
  • Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. and Galina Gorokhoff, A Checklist of American Paintings at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982),
  • Ella M. Foshay, "Charles Darwin and the Development of American Flower Imagery," Winterthur Portfolio 15, no. 4 (Winter 1980),
  • Helen A. Cooper and Jules David Prown, "American Paintings and Sculpture at Yale," Antiques (June 1980), 1287
  • Robert Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko (London: Thames and Hudson, 1975), 82
  • Martina Roudabush Norelli, American Wildlife Painting (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1975), 148-49
  • Theodore E. Stebbins Jr., The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1975), 140–41, no. 135, fig. 77
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

botanical, still lifes


1Signed lower left "M.J. Heade/1872"

Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

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