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.