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The Empress Joséphine (1763-1814) was passionate about the natural sciences, botany, plants and exotic birds, particularly parrots.
At the Château de Malmaison, visitors were received in a vestibule that had been converted into an aviary, as Miss Avrillion, first chambermaid to the Empress, recalled 20 years later: "(...) Whilst we were still at the Tuileries, the Marquis de Salinès had given her majesty a truly remarkable parrot. This parrot only spoke Spanish, but it spoke it like a Castilian noble (...) it sang lots of airs and danced in accompaniment; it repeated everything it heard spoken with incredible ease."
Jacques Barraband (1767-1809) was a French painter, draughtsman and illustrator specialising in zoology, who was recognised and appreciated by Napoléon I. He illustrated several books by François Levaillant (ornithologist, 1753-1826): Histoire Naturelle des Perroquets (Natural History of Parrots), Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis (Natural History of Birds of Paradise) and Histoire Naturelle des Promérops (Natural History of the Promerops).
An extremely talented draughtsman, his brilliantly-coloured engravings, combined with the precise descriptions by Levaillant, are a highpoint in the history of ornithological art.
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