Purple Gallinule. Illustration: Olimpia Zagnoli

Illustrated Aviary

Reimagining the Purple Gallinule

Olimpia Zagnoli's bird has plenty of style—both on and off the page.

John James Audubon rhapsodized about the Purple Gallinule “flirting its tail while gaily moving over the broad leaves of the water-lily,” its “graceful movements, and rich hues of its glossy plumage!” Upon seeing his painting, Olimpia Zagnoli was similarly blown away by the bird’s splendor. Zagnoli, 33, is known for a style that mingles soft shapes and vibrant hues. A fan of punk rock, city architecture, and the late American artist and social activist Keith Haring, she lives in Milan, where fashion and style play a strong part in her bold illustrations. When she is working on a subject she first sketches it on paper to play with ideas and how she wants to frame them, then brings them to life on a digital tablet. “I try to always add a touch of irony to my work to make it look artistic but not too serious,” she says. “Audubon’s Purple Gallinule is incredible. I hope my art could generate the same feeling I got when I first saw it.” 

Illustration: John James Audubon