Gustave Courbet – La Femme Au Perroquet (the Woman With The Parrot)

THE parrot which was removed from the hand of Venus reappeared in another picture, even more celebrated, to which it gave its name. It was exhibited at the same time as the “Remise des Chevreuils” At the Salon of 1866. “If they are not satisfied this time,” said Courbet, “they must be hard to please! They are going to have two proper pictures entirely after their own hearts.”

“They ” were quite satisfied. ” They ” were even ” bowled over ” if the artist is to be believed. At least if we are to take ” they ” to mean the public and ordinary people, among these we must include the government represented by M. de Nieuwerkerque, who expressed his approval in such terms that Courbet thought his picture must surely be bought by the State. But it was said that M. de Nieuwerkerque’s good intentions only led to disaster. A few months later it was announced that the Director had bought “Le Ruisseau Couvert ” (now in the Louvre with the title “Ruisseau du Puits- Noir”) but gave up all idea of “La Femme au Perroquet.” We must beg leave to doubt Courbet’s boast that his protests forced the superintendent to resign. As it is not in the power of artists to determine the lives of superintendents, Courbet had to console himself with angry declarations that the government was on its last legs and “could not last more than two years!”

For the rest the concessions made in these two pictures did not deceive the critics. “So far from being a dull, cold generalization,” said Charles Blanc of “La Femme au Perroquet” ” she has a proper name, and is certainly Pamela or Theresa. . . . However, except for the head in which there is some truth, though she has snakes for hair, like the Medusa of the Institutes, the woman’s body rings hollow. It is drawn, put together, and posed without the slightest regard for the laws of anatomy. The right arm has no wrist; the right hip, under the officious piece of stuff which partly covers it, is not joined on to the body where it ought to be. . Does a man need to be, and to boast of being, a realist to paint swollen flesh and tricky effects when you are pretending to paint a compact, palpable and positive body ? ”

And honest Bonvin declared more briefly that Courbet had begun to play the game of bluff Castagnary protested that with only a little more time the artist would have painted a masterpiece. “Consider the magnificent quality of the technique and the painting!

. The flesh, the arms, the torso, the belly! . What man has ever painted anything like it ? ”

“La Femme au Perroquet” was shown again at the private exhibition in x867, and the Munich exhibition in 1869. It is now in the Bordet collection at Lyons.