Black-headed Snake, Aspidiotes melanocephalus

Harriet Morgan1869

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria

The print depicted here was included in Krefft's 700- copy limited edition Snakes of Australia published by the Government Printer though financed by Krefft himself in 1869. Plate III of the Krefft book is the Black-headed Snake, and was drawn and lithographed by Harriet Scott, sister of Helena Forde. Also known as the Tar-pot, Black-headed Python, or Black-headed Rock Snake, this snake is non-venomous and measures 2.6 metres in length. Harriet's distinctive depiction of the black head, in contrast to the rest of the body, captures the ability of this snake to absorb heat through its head and neck area while limiting its total body exposure. Normally preferring caves, crevices and hollow logs for its microhabitat, the animal portrayed here is dramatically coiled around intersecting branches of a eucalypt tree. Gerard Krefft, born in Germany in 1830, became one of Australia's early herpetologists, and in 1858 was appointed to the museum in Melbourne after returning with sketches from a Victorian government specimen collecting expedition. At the time that Snakes of Australia was written and published (1865-1869), Krefft was the Secretary and an Assistant Curator at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Krefft had from an early age shown skills in drawing and was himself an artist and draughtsman. While living in New York, and before moving to Australia, he had studied and copied some of Audubon's works. Gerard Krefft was lauded at the Sydney Intercolonial Exhibition of 1870 for his published research on Australian snakes, and Harriet Scott and her sister received a Very High Commendation for the striking artwork that accompanied Krefft's text.

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  • Title: Black-headed Snake, Aspidiotes melanocephalus
  • Creator: Harriet Scott
  • Date Created: 1869
  • Physical Dimensions: w205 x h261 mm
  • Type: Image
  • Rights: Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Harriet Scott, Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Harriet Scott
  • Medium: Lithographic Ink on Paper
  • Themes: Artistic Practices, Scientific Research, Natural History, Printing, Snakes, Sciences, Illustrations
  • Artist biography: Harriet Scott, also known as Hattie Scott and Harriet Morgan, was born in Sydney in 1830.In 1846, her father, Alexander Walker Scott, moved the family north of Sydney to Ash Island near Newcastle. It was this move that allowed Harriet and her sister to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the area, and to develop a keen eye for the flora and fauna of their environment. This aptitude for recording insects in particular was fostered by Alexander Scott, himself an artist with expertise in entomology and a keen interest in botany. In 1882 Harriet married Dr Cosby William Morgan and became stepmother to four children. She did little illustrative work thereafter.She has been described as an artist, printmaker, draughtsman, and painter, and indeed she was all of these. She received commissions from the leading colonial and international natural scientists of the day to illustrate their work. Helena's 'Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations', published in London in 1864, cemented her reputation within Sydney scientific circles. Gerard Krefft commissioned the Scott sisters to prepare the illustrations for his 'Snakes of Australia' published in Sydney in 1869.Krefft was lauded at the Sydney Intercolonial Exhibition of 1870 for his published research on Australian snakes, and Harriet Scott and her sister received a Very High Commendation for the striking artwork that accompanied Krefft�s text. The paintings for Krefft�s book were prepared on stone as lithography, usually by Helena or Harriet, and then printed in black and white. The prints were normally sent to London for specialised hand-colouring though it is not known if this is the case with the snake illustrations. Each print by Harriet is signed in the bottom left-hand corner �del. et lith.�- drawn by and lithographed by the artist.The illustrative work of the Scott sisters was highly regarded for its precision and finish. They also used their skills in other ways, at one time producing a range of distinctively Australian wildflower Christmas cards. Helena also gained fourth place in the card-maker John Sands & Co. Competition in 1879.The Scott sisters were affected by the collapse of their father�s entrepreneurial dealings and continued to be in poor financial circumstances until their deaths. Harriet Scott died in Granville, Sydney in 1907.
  • Artist: Harriet Scott


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