The Bird Catchers

Object Details


The Bird Catchers


François Boucher (French, 1703 - 1770)






Oil on canvas


294.6 x 337.8 cm (116 x 133 in.)

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Responding to the contemporary rage for pastorals depicting amorous countryside games, François Boucher here exhibited young, fashionable couples in the act of catching birds. In the 1700s, small birds played an important symbolic role in courtship ritual: the gift of a caged bird from a man to a woman signified her capture of his heart. Posed in front of the ruins of a temple to Vesta, young aristocratic women dressed in exquisite finery play with small birds; some still hold them on strings while others daintily hold them on their fingers.

The Bird Catchers
and its pendant, The Fountain of Love, were finished cartoons or models for a series of tapestries known as the Noble Pastorales. Eventually, the cartoons were cut up into sections and sold separately. The tapestries reveal how large the cartoons originally were and how much is missing from the cut-up sections.

by 1755 - at least 1820

Beauvais Manufactory, French, founded 1664 (Beauvais, France), possibly sold, 1829.

- 1860

Private Collection (Paris, France) [sold, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, June 30, 1860, lot 24, to Ward.]

1860 -


1860/1864 -

Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, first baron Tweedmouth, 1820 - 1894 (Guisachan, Beauly, Scotland; London, England)

by 1902 -

Dudley Churchill Marjoribanks, third baron Tweedmouth, 1874 - 1935 (London, England)

by 1908 -

Charles J. Wertheimer, 1842 - 1911 (London, England)

- 1919

Herbert Stern, first baron Michelham, 1851 - 1919 (London, England; Paris, France)

by 1919 - 1926

Aimee Geraldine Bradshaw Stern, baroness Michelham, 1882 - 1927 (London, England; Strawberry Hill, Middlesex, England; Paris, France) [sold, Michelham sale, Hampton and Sons, London, November 24, 1926, lot 286, to Jefferson Davis Cohn.]

1926 -

Capt. Jefferson Davis Cohn (Paris, France), sold to Jack Herbert Michelham.

by 1929 - 1934

Jack Herbert Michelham, born 1903, sold, possibly through Jefferson Davis Cohn (Paris, France), to Duveen Brothers, Inc., 1934.

1934 - 1935

Duveen Brothers, Inc. (London, England; New York, New York), sold to Anna Thomson Dodge, 1935.

1935 - 1970

Anna Thomson Dodge, American, born Scotland, 1871 - 1970 (Detroit, Michigan), upon her death, held in trust by the estate.

1970 - 1971

Estate of Anna Thomson Dodge, American, born Scotland, 1871 - 1970 (Detroit, Michigan) [sold, Dodge sale, Christie's, London, June 25, 1971, lot 5, through French and Company (New York, New York), to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]


Duveen and Co. A Catalogue of Works of Art in the Collection of Anna Thomson Dodge: Paintings, Tapestries, Furniture, and Objets d'Art. 2 vols. (Detroit: n.p., 1939), vol. 2, unpaginated, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), pp. 71, 127, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), p. 67.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 5th ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), p. 76.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 13, ill.

Education Resources

Education Resource




"A Dream of Classic Perfection"

Research how classical Greek art and philosophy influenced values of the French Revolution and the visual style of Neoclassical art.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; History–Social Science

6-8; 9-12

Three/Five-Part Lesson