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Drawing, Still-life with Fish and Parrot, 1740

This is a Drawing. It was created by Jean-Baptiste Oudry. It is dated 1740 and we acquired it in 1938. Its medium is black, white chalk on blue laid paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

An artful arrangement of sea life is composed against ruins. Lobster, fish and eel appear teeming, as though recently hauled from the sea. Perched above, a live parrot provides a juxtaposition to the nautical still life below. The tension between life and death was a favored pictorial trope of Jean-Baptiste Oudry, who would enliven his compositions by contrasting the textures of feather, shells and fur. White chalk is used to great effect, suggesting the shimmer of light against fish scales. Oudry made studies of animals directly from nature, empiricism being central to his artistic philosophy; from 1719-1721 he traveled to coastal Dieppe specifically for the purpose of observing freshly caught marine life. Accurate representations of natural specimens were eagerly collected by the nobility and cultural elite of the eighteenth century, satisfying bourgeoning interest in the field of natural history. From a young age, Oudry had a precocious love of drawing and he grew to be a prolific draughtsman, producing thousands of pictures in his lifetime. Numerous drawings were intended as finished works of art, while many were produced as preparatory studies for paintings or tapestries. The artist regularly created and sold copies of his own drawings in order to retain the original for his private collection. The Cooper-Hewitt’s drawing, dating to 1740, is likely the carefully executed replica of a work exhibited in the Salon of 1725.

This object was featured in our Object of the Day series in a post titled Original Copy.

This object was purchased from Sotheby's and catalogued by Rudolph Berliner, Elizabeth Horwitz Marcus and Calvin S. Hathaway. It is credited Museum purchase from Friends of the Museum Fund.

Its dimensions are

30.6 x 41.6cm (12 1/16 x 16 3/8in.) Mat: 40.6 x 55.9 cm (16 x 22 in.) Frame: 44.8 x 60.3 x 2.5 cm (17 5/8 in. x 23 3/4 in. x 1 in.)

It has the following markings

Stamps: lower left: E. and J. de Goncourt (Lugt 1089); lower right corner: A. Beurdeley (Lugt 421).

It is inscribed

Inscribed in pen and brown ink, lower right: Oudry 1740

Cite this object as

Drawing, Still-life with Fish and Parrot, 1740; Jean-Baptiste Oudry (French, 1686 – 1755); France; black, white chalk on blue laid paper; 30.6 x 41.6cm (12 1/16 x 16 3/8in.) Mat: 40.6 x 55.9 cm (16 x 22 in.) Frame: 44.8 x 60.3 x 2.5 cm (17 5/8 in. x 23 3/4 in. x 1 in.); 1938-66-1

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Drawing, Still-life with Fish and Parrot, 1740 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=6 February 2016 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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