Dominica’s Dead Parrot – A Perfect Picture of Mystery?

Posted by: Karl Shuker on February 23rd, 2014

In various of my books, magazine articles, and ShukerNature blog posts, I have documented a number of mystery birds that have appeared in paintings by famous artists and which may conceivably represent lost species undescribed by science. In recent times, several additional examples have come to my attention, but perhaps the most significant of these is the following one, which may feature a hitherto-unrecognised depiction of a long-extinct bird officially known only from a single verbal description.

Van Bassen mystery parrot, close-up

Bartholomeus van Bassen (1590-1652) was a celebrated Dutch architect and painter. Perhaps his most famous painting was ‘Renaissance Interior With Banqueters’ – an extremely detailed, sophisticated work of art that took from 1618 to 1620 to complete. Having said that, although I naturally cannot help but be highly impressed by its scale and by the architectural splendours and opulence that it depicts, the most fascinating aspect of it for me is an ostensibly insignificant bird perching upon a chair in this painting’s bottom left-hand corner. Closer examination of this bird reveals it to be a parrot, but it does not appear to correspond with any species known to be living today. What could it be?

Further details can be found here on my ShukerNature blog.

Karl Shuker About Karl Shuker
My name is Dr Karl P.N. Shuker. I am a zoologist (BSc & PhD), media consultant, and the author of 25 books and hundreds of articles, specialising in cryptozoology and animal mythology. I have a BSc (Honours) degree in pure zoology from the University of Leeds (U.K.), and a PhD in zoology and comparative physiology from the University of Birmingham (U.K.). I have acted jointly as consultant and major contributor to three multi-author volumes on cryptozoology and other mysterious phenomena. I am the Life Sciences Consultant to The Guinness Book of Records/Guinness World Records (Guinness: London, 1997-present day), and was consultant to Monsters (Lorenz Books: London, 2001), as well as a contributor to Mysteries of the Deep (Llewellyn: St Paul, 1998), Guinness Amazing Future (Guinness: London, 1999), The Earth (Channel 4 Books: London, 2000), and Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained (Chambers: London, 2007). I appear regularly on television & radio, was a consultant for the Discovery TV series Into the Unknown, and a question setter for the BBC's quiz show Mastermind. I am a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a Member of the Society of Authors, and the Cryptozoology Consultant for the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ). I have written articles for numerous publications, including Fortean Times, The X Factor, Paranormal Magazine, FATE, Strange Magazine, Prediction, Beyond, Uri Geller's Encounters, Phenomena, Alien Encounters, Wild About Animals, All About Cats, All About Dogs, Cat World, etc. In 2005, I was honoured by the naming of a new species of loriciferan invertebrate after me - Pliciloricus shukeri.

2 Responses to “Dominica’s Dead Parrot – A Perfect Picture of Mystery?”

  1. PoeticsOfBigfoot responds:

    Karl should look up the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini, which is in the Piazza Navona, Rome. Bernini included a sculpture of an armadillo, but it’s obvious he had never actually seen one. In fact, it would be very easy to conclude that it represents some other animal altogether. There are many, many examples of this kind of thing in Western art beginning in the mid-1500s and lasting all the way through the 19th century (for changing reasons). An interesting topic that would easily fill up an entire book.

  2. Karl Shuker responds:

    When holidaying in Rome back in 2001, I visited the Piazza Navona and took several photos of the various components of Bernini’s spectacular Fountain of the Four Rivers, including his supposed armadillo sculpture. Moreover, I’ve written a number of articles, ShukerNature blog posts, and book sections on anachronistic or mystery animals (particularly birds) depicted in art, and agree that there are more than sufficient examples for a complete book. A future project for me, perhaps?

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