About this artwork

This oval painting is typical of a type perfected by Greuze which played on the viewer's emotions. Here we are invited to sympathise with the young girl grieving over her dead canary. Such subjects had great appeal for Greuze's contemporaries and the painting attracted much critical attention when it was exhibited at the Salon in 1765. Greuze emphasises the girl's facial expression and also the textural contrasts between her scarf, the flowers, the wooden cage and the dead canary. The yellow glaze Greuze used has become transparent with age so the canary appears white, and what should be green foliage has become blue.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze

Jean-Baptiste Greuze

Greuze specialised in painting popular scenes from daily life, rich in detail and moralising or sentimental in content. He invented new subjects and had engravings made after his paintings which ensured a wide audience for his work. When he first exhibited at the Paris Salon his paintings were greatly admired, but he was disappointed to qualify for entrance to the French Academy only as a genre rather than as a history painter. He was born in Tournus and studied in Lyon before moving to Paris. Greuze spent two years in Italy and was inspired by the emotional character of Guido Reni's paintings.

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