Saturday, January 7, 2017

Bird On A Wire

Ever since I visited the Warner House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire a few years back and saw the evocative portrait of Polly Warner, I've been intrigued with 18th and 19th century paintings of women with birds.  And there are plenty of them.

In art, women are popular subjects especially attractive women in elaborate dress.  But I was unprepared for the number of paintings of women holding birds - even exotic and dangerous birds.  I wish I could say I discovered a reason for this but there seems to be very little said about the phenomena except to mention the deep connection between women and nature.  I never pretend to be an art expert but I believe I could imagine a few reasons why - one being that birds represent the freedom that often eludes women in life.  I would also say that it is in women's nature to protect small things, especially things that are vulnerable and frail.

The portrait of Polly directly below, appears both wistful and melancholy to me.  There is but a half-smile on her lips and the landscape behind her seems changeable and moody.  Yet a delicate thing rests upon her graceful upraised hand - unencumbered except for a long loose thread - where it seems quite content to be in her presence.


  1. I really enjoyed this post Donna. I too love birds as does my mom. I would buy my my mom a bird every time her old one would pass away. She finally asked me not to because she got tired of cleaning the cage. 😁

  2. What lovely portraits, Donna. I have just popped over to see your blog and am delighted that it's an arts blog. I am just reading the Diaries (the original ones from 1967 to 1987; a further collection has recently been published) of Sir Roy Strong, one-time Director of the National Portrait Gallery (London) and then Director of the V&A (London) so your blog chimes nicely with my current reading.
    Margaret P

    1. Not all art Margaret...but much like your lovely blog. ;)

  3. FASCINATING!NOW I will look for the BIRDS!

  4. I've recently fallen into collecting a tiny treasure trove of porcelain birds from the 1950s and before...quirky little birds appear on my dressers, bookcases, nightstands and coffeetable...not sure why, but I like your proffered explanation that women and birds share opportunities to soar and are often trammeled by cages not of their own making. The poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is a clue, too, isn't it, as well as the old classic saloon song "I'm Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage"...perhaps women do love birds because we understand each other? Love these images, Donna...beautiful! XO