Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Parrot in Art (well I've got to write about something)

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how often the parrot
crops up in portraiture? 

 Or is it, perhaps, that I really
ought to get out more instead of spending my evenings,
when not stitching, trawling obsessively through works of
art on the internet in search of something both interesting
and entertaining with which to amuse you.

And it's not a recent thing either.  The parrot Alice dear,
not my nocturnal trawling activities.  Good old Polly has been
playing a leading role in works of art throughout the centuries,
through fashions and fads and, it would seem, is equally at
home alongside a recumbent nude as she is perched between two
well-scrubbed children of who knows what intent.

Further detailed research (how sad is that?) has led me to discover,
in an obscure, ancient classic penned by none other than Macrobius,
yes THE Macrobius, that Julius Caesar after he had defeated Mark
Anthony at the battle of Actium was spoken to by a parrot who is
alleged to have said "Hail Caesar, conqueror and leader." and in
Latin too.  One wonders what he was smoking at the time?

This story was then, apparently, handed down through history, 
goodness knows why, until by the Middle Ages "Ave Caesar" had
been turned into "Ave Maria".  It's all a bit far-fetched really
especially when you're supposed to then stretch the point even
further and believe that the parrot's words contain a coded
prophecy of the Virgin birth of Christ!

During the Renaissance these pricey ornamental birds were the
status symbol of the day and, as can be seen from the accompanying
pictures, could be worn on either the left or the right hand according
to personal preference.  What's more in Holland two parrots were
the avian equivalent of the possession of rare tulip bulbs in terms
of a demonstration of wealth.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries painted parrots became fraught
with erotic meaning, because they had once symbolised Eve,
and were used to depict sexual lust and longing.  Hence the
plethora of paintings during that period of big busted old tarts
laying about with their kit off.  It had a similar effect on some of
the blokes too (see above).

It has transpired that thankfully I'm not alone, as I once thought,
in my parrot odyssey as a few years ago The Barber Institute in
Birmingham played host to an exhibition called "The Parrot in Art"
which was the brainchild of Richard Verdi it's director and a
distinguished art historian and parroteer.  And here's the best bit
-  he dedicated the exhibition to the memory of his late lamented
pair of parrots Mr Lily and Mr Lotte.

And now I'm all parroted out you'll be delirious to hear.

No I'm not.  Zitella has just reminded me that I have forgotten
Polly Wright's parrot of Deerfield.  Just visit their site if
you want to know more .....


  1. Wait, wait, just one more parrot, Polly Wright's Parrot of Deerfield.

    1. That was very remiss of me and I have now made suitable amends. Apologies also go to the parrot.