Woman Stroking a Parrot Eugene Delacroix Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This charming portrait from 1827 features a young woman reclining back on a couch that has been draped in additional material. She offers a touching moment by stroking a small parrot who sits by her feet.

Delacroix is more famous for extravagant, busy artworks with activity found in every corner. His history paintings and items inspired by more recent literature would become the trademark of his career, but besides all of these, there was also a number of domestic scenes and individual portraits dotted across his career. Many have argued as to the identity of the model featured here, with some suggesting that it might be the same model as found in The Death of Sardanapalus and Greece Among the Ruins of Missolonghi, whilst others have suggested an alternative model who appeared in some of his other works from around this time. Several centuries later, it will be particularly hard to add any clarity to that now, but some clues could potentially lie undiscovered within the artist's many private journals and personal musings. The particular portrait is very light in tone, almost entirely, with just a light shadow cast upon the woman's legs.

Drapery is beautifully added within this painting, both in the material that lies upon the couch that she lays on, but also in the curtain which appears from the left hand side of the canvas. In terms of French art, Delacroix and Ingres were two of the finest exponents of capturing the layers of material within art, be it curtains or elaborate outfits. Some of the latter's best examples include Grande Odalisque, Jupiter and Thetis and The Princesse de Broglie. Light captures the edges of much of the material, with the artist clearly adding fairly pure touches of white paint as an afterthought upon several different parts of the composition. This provides a highlighting to the existing colour and contrasts beautifully with the darkened areas. Her skin tone is light, seemingly soft. She looks elegant, even in this lack of attire, still wearing a pretty hat. Her facial features seem dominated by a strong nose and angular cheek bones which may have made her suitable for traditional shoulder length portraits as well. She sports a subtle touch of jewellery, probably gold, and light also spreads across elements of this as well.

There is a stunning delicacy to this portrait that one can understand by viewing the larger image that is displayed below. Even the canvas can be seen showing through in the top of the composition, just behind the blue couch cushions. It feels as though there were many layers of paint slowly added one at a time in order to achieve the soft looknig skin of the model as well as the varying, but subtle, changes in lighting. It may not be one of Delacroix's most famous paintings, but it is perhaps amongst his best, with simplicity and elegance being the key to success for Woman Stroking a Parrot, 1827. Delacroix is known to have issues with the opposite sex in his private life from time to time, making these intimate portraits all the more intriguing, also serving as an aid to academics who were looking to better understand his relationships of that time.

Woman Stroking a Parrot in Detail Eugene Delacroix