Charles N. Mavroyeni’s Hoopoe

This curious plate, depicting a Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), appeared in several early 20th century books. It’s by a photographer from Athens, Charles N. Mavroyeni, and is captioned as a photograph, but clearly includes much over-painted colour, by an uncredited hand.


I’m trying to find out more about Mavroyeni — not least his date of death, to determine the copyright status of his work, and thus whether it can be used in Wikipedia.

I’ve compiled what little information I can find about Mavroyeni, into an item on Wikidata (a sister project of Wikipedia, that hosts linked, open data).

As well as ornithological subjects, he photographed insects and reptiles. One picture, published in the 23 June 1906 issue of ”Country-side: A Wildlife Magazine” (page 96), depicted a beetle in flight — quite something for 1906! Sadly, it is missing from the only scan of the work I can find. Most of his published photographs, that can be found online, are monochrome and not overpainted. In the 1920s he made short films of botanical interest.

According to the same issue of ”Country-side”, he had:

the reputation of the cleverest naturalist photographer in Eastern Europe [and] there can be no doubt that if [his pictures] are not the results of simple photography, they represent the most skilful art

The above version of the Hoopoe plate appears in The Living Animals of the World, Volume 2, by Charles J. Cornish et al., circa 1902. The photographer was credited, as he often was, as “C. N. Mavroyeni”

The image file came from a copy on The Gutenberg Project; a different scan of the same work is available on the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Another version of the plate is in the two-volume Birds of Our County; and can be seen in the recent Amazon listing of a copy (should anyone want to treat me!).

2 thoughts on “Charles N. Mavroyeni’s Hoopoe

  1. Luke McKernan

    I know a little about Mavroyeni from his film work in the early 1920s.

    My knowledge of him comes from references made in the papers of Anglo-American film producer Charles Urban’ (see my site http:///, which are held by the National Media and Science Museum in Bradford. Mavroyeni is mentioned as one of a team of filmmakers contracted to supply material to Urban for a magazine film series called Urban Movie Chats, which Urban produced from his American base 1919-1923. Specific films are not mentioned, but a catalogue for ‘Urban Popular Classics’ (which has a photograph of Mavroyeni) indicates that he was using microphotography (so presumably films of microscopic life).

    In another catalogue, typewritten rather than published, Mavroyeni is listed among those who contributed to a series on ‘The Animal Kingdom’. This is of particular interest because the catalogue lists films made in colour. Charles Urban became famous through his production of films in the Kinemacolor process before the First World War (Kinemacolor was the first successful ‘natural’ motion picture colour system). When he lost a court battle over the patent, he came up with a revised system, called Kinekrom, which he tried and failed to get off the ground when he re-located his business from Britain to the USA after the First World War. There is little information on what Kinekrom films were shot, and by whom, but assuming Mavroyeni did not work for Urban before the war (I have found no evidence of this), then he is a rare example of someone who made colour films using the Kinekrom process.

  2. Aydin Örstan

    I have quite a bit of interest in Turkey’s past and present natural history and people who have contributed to its study. I was intrigued by this inquiry and consulted with a Greek friend about this person’s name.

    The Greek version of Charles would have been Karlos or Karolos, while there are/were several versions of the last name as Mavrogenis, Mavrogianis, Mavroyeni, Mavroyani, etc. The name was apparently quite common.

    I hope this helps.


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