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.]


Burty, Philippe. "Vente de tableaux à londres." Gazette des beaux-arts 7 (July 1860) p. 315.

"Picture Sales." The Art-Journal 6 (1860) p. 247.

"Revue des ventes publiques. Ville de Londres." Moniteur des arts: Revue permanente des expositions et des ventes publiques 3, no. 108 (1860).

Christie, Manson & Woods, London. Catalogue of the Very Celebrated Pair of Portraits by Rembrandt...and of Two Noble Chef-d'Oeuvres by Boucher [...]. June 30, 1860 p. 4, lot 24.

Nolhac, Pierre de. François Boucher, premier peintre du roi, 1703-1770 (Paris: Goupil, 1907) pp. 62-63, ill. facing p. 62.

Macfall, Haldane. Boucher: The Man, His Times, His Art, and His Significance (London: The Connoisseur, 1908) p. 91, ill.

Badin, Jules. La manufacture de tapisseries de Beauvais depuis ses origines jusqu'à nos jours (Paris: Société de propagation des livres d'art, 1909) p. 105.

Nolhac, Pierre de. François Boucher: Premier peintre du roi (Paris: Henri Floury, 1925) pp. 64-65.

Borenius, Tancred. "The Michelham Collection." Apollo 4 (October 1926) p. 139.

Hampton & Sons, London. 2nd Day's Sale. The Michelham Collection. Catalogue of Pictures [...]. November 24, 1926 p. 53, lot 286, ill.

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.

Townsend, Gertrude. "A Pastoral by François Boucher." Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts 38, no. 230 (December 1940) pp. 84-85.

Christie, Manson & Woods, London. Highly Important Pictures by Old Masters. June 25, 1971 p. 9, lot 5, ill.

La Coste-Messelière, M.-G. de. "Anatomie d'une vente publique." L'OEil 197 (May 1971) pp. 27, 30-31, fig. 5.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Catalogue of the Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972) p. 97, no. 131, ill.

Bordeaux, Jean-Luc. "The J. Paul Getty Museum: La peinture française." Connaissance des arts, no. 278 (April 1975) pp. 84, 86-87, figs. 6-7.

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.

Parker, John. Great Art Sales of the Century (London: Pitman Publishing, 1975) p. 80, pl. 7.

Ananoff, Alexandre, and Daniel Wildenstein. François Boucher. 2 vols. (Lausanne: La bibliothèque des arts, 1976) vol. 2, pp. 21-22, no. 324a, fig. 935.

Bordeaux, Jean-Luc. "The Epitome of the Pastoral Genre in Boucher's Oeuvre: The Fountain of Love and The Bird Catcher from The Noble Pastoral." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 3 (1976) pp. 75-101, figs. 5-8, 33.

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

Standen, Edith A. "Some Notes on the Cartoons Used at the Gobelins and Beauvais Tapestry Manufactories in the Eighteenth Century." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 4 (1977) p. 27.

Eitner, Lorenz. "Cages, Prisons, and Captives in Eighteenth-Century Art." In Images of Romanticism: Verbal and Visual Affinities. Karl Kroeber and William Walling, eds. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978) p. 16n5.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jírí Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978) p. 84.

Ananoff, Alexandre, and Daniel Wildenstein. L'opera completa di Boucher (Milan: Rizzoli, 1980) p. 113, fig. 336a.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Masterpieces of Painting in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980) unpaginated, under no. 47, ill.

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

Bailey, Colin B., et al. The First Painters of the King: French Royal Taste from Louis XIV to the Revolution, exh. cat. Colin Bailey, ed. (New York: Stair Sainty Matthiesen, 1985) p. 130, no. 39, ill.

Sykes, Christopher. Private Places: Life in the Great London Houses (London: Chatto & Windus, 1985) p. 316, ill.

Brunel, Georges. Boucher (Paris: Flammarion, 1986) p. 174.

Ader Picard Tajan, Paris. Importants dessins et tableaux anciens. June 28, 1988 unpaginated, under lot 29.

Hyde, Melissa. "Confounding Conventions: Gender Ambiguity and François Boucher's Painted Pastorals." Eighteenth-Century Studies 30, no. 1 (Fall 1996) pp. 39-41, 56, figs. 2-4.

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

Simon, Robert B. Figure and Fantasy in French Painting, 1650-1800, exh. cat. (New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., 1999) p. 34.

Cornforth, John. "London's Uncrowned King." Country Life 194, no. 22 (June 1, 2000) p. 136, fig. 4.

Cornforth, John. London Interiors: From the Archives of Country Life (London: Aurum Press, 2000) p. 128, ill.

Secrest, Meryle. Duveen: A Life in Art (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004) p. 205.

Hyde, Melissa. Making Up the Rococo: François Boucher and His Critics (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2005) p. 41, 191, pl. 15.

Tarabra, Daniela. European Art of the Eighteenth Century. Rosanna M. Giammanco Frongia, trans. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006) p. 232, ill.

Hall, Michael. "Bric-A-Brac: A Rothchild's Memoir of Collecting." Apollo 166, no. 545 (July-August 2007) pp. 58, 63n24.

Brosens, Koenraad, et al. European Tapestries in the Art Institute of Chicago, exh. cat. (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, with Yale University Press, 2008) pp. 286-89, under no. 47, fig. 2, entry by Charissa Bremer-David.

Tajan, Paris. Tableaux anciens et du XIXe siècle. June 23, 2009 p. 48, under lot 45.

Kavanagh, Thomas M. Enlightened Pleasures: Eighteenth-Century France and the New Epicureanism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) pp. 123-24, fig. 20.

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

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