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Oil painting - Girl with a birdcage seated on a bed
  • Girl with a birdcage seated on a bed
    Schall, Jean-Frédéric, born 1752 - died 1825
  • Enlarge image

Girl with a birdcage seated on a bed

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    late 18th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Schall, Jean-Frédéric, born 1752 - died 1825 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Forster

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Jean-Frédéric Schall (1752-1825) was born in Strasbourg but studied in Paris at the Académie Royale under the supervision of Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié (1735-1784). He specialised in erotic and pastoral subjects which were later engraved. His style betrays the influence of François Boucher (1703-1770), Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) and Pierre-Antoine Baudouin (1723-1769) as well as Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).

This painting is a good example of Schall's genre scenes, a category for which he is best known. This painting shows a lady seated on her with an empty bird cage, which probably suggests that she was abandoned by her lover. It is a good example of the late Rococo movement still in fashion although in decline in France at the end of the 18th century.

Physical description

A lady wearing a bonnet is seated on her bed in a humble bedroom, she has an empty bird cage beside her and her corset is half open.


late 18th century (painted)


Schall, Jean-Frédéric, born 1752 - died 1825 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on panel


Height: 23.5 cm estimate, Width: 28.5 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by John Forster, 1876
Extract from Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix

John Forster (1812-1876) was born in Newcastle, the son of a cattle dealer. Educated at Newcastle Grammar School and University College London, he was a student in the Inner Temple 1828 and qualified as a barrister 1843. Began his career as a journalist as dramatic critic of the True Sun 1832; he later edited the Foreign Quarterly Review (1842-3), the Daily News (1846) and most famously the Examiner (1847-55). He was the author of numerous works, notably the Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith (1848) and the Life of Charles Dickens (1872-4). He bequeathed his extensive collection of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, prints, drawings, watercolours and oil paintings to the V&A.
See also South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Dyce and Forster Collections. With Engravings and Facsimiles. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 193, Piccadilly, London. 1880. Chapter V. Biographical Sketch of Mr. Forster. pp.53-73, including 'Portrait of Mr. Forster' illustrated opposite p.53.

Historical significance: Formerly catalogued as ‘style of Jean-Baptiste Greuze’, this painting shows striking similarities with the oeuvre of Jean-Frédéric Schall who specialised in small scale genre scenes on panel (an attribution supported by E. Munhall, verbal opinion 1963). An old inscription on the back of the panel: Greuze 1787. Vte Vaudreuil 1002, Vte Cochu 540 implied that the painting was a genuine work by Greuze however the painting does not appear in any of the Vaudreuil sales held in Paris (Lebrun) on 24 Nov. 1784 and 26 Nov. 1787, nor in the two sales of François Félicité Cochu, Médecin, Paris, Regnault, 6-9 Mar. 1796 and 21-2 Feb. 1799.
The present painting shows a lady seated on her bed with an empty bird cage, a subject matter that is quite typical of Schall’s small genre pieces (see for instance Le fidèle indiscret, formerly in the collection of Emile Delagarde, Paris, La belle cachette formerly collection of G. Alexis Godillot, Paris and Le bouquet impromptu, formerly Jacques Lehideux’s collection, Paris.) The compositional idea showing a lady with her breast half hidden is quite recurrent in Schall’s oeuvre also the facial type does not bear the prettiness of most of his female figures.
This painting can be somehow interpreted as a moralising image. In the 18th-century iconography, the gift of a caged bird from a man to a woman signified her capture of his heart. Here the bird had flown away, which suggests that the lady has been abandoned by her lover and in fact, is shown alone seated on her bird, with her corset wide opened.
This type of pictures was much in favour during the 18th century following the taste for libertine tales in French literature.

Historical context note

Genre scenes and pastoral in 18th-century French art involve usually some idealized shepherds and shepherdesses set in a beautiful and idyllic landscape. These scenes are reminiscent of the Arcadia, the Antique Golden Age that the Roman author Virgil (1St BC) described in the Eclogues and were at the time illustrated on the Roman wall paintings. The pastoral was reborn during the Renaissance, especially in Venice, in the oeuvre of such painters as Titian (ca. 1488-1576) and Giorgione (1477-1510), and gradually evolved over the centuries. In the 17th century in fact, the Arcadian themes were illustrated in the Roman school led by the painter Claude Lorrain (1604-1682) whereas a century later, Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and his followers forged the new genre of fêtes galantes, which appears as a derivation of the pastoral. The pastoral became the hallmark of the Rococo movement in which François Boucher's (1703-1770) elegant eroticism found his true expression. This tradition, which had became an illustration of the carefree aristocratic world, died with the French revolution and was never revived although the celebration of the timeless Mediterranean world in the oeuvre of such painter as Henri Matisse (1869-1954) may be seen as a continuing interest for the theme.

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'Girl with a Birdcage Seated on a Bed', Ascribed to Jean-Frédéric Schall, late 18th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: 1973, pp. 139-140, cat. no.160.
Forster Collection catalogue, 1893, p. 2
French paintings - The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1949, pl. 17.
A. Girodie, Un peintre de fêtes galantes; Jean-Frédéric Schall, Paris: 1927.

Production Note

Formerly catalogued as 'Style of Jean-Baptiste Greuze'


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Cage; Bedroom; Bed; Bird; Female




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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