The Parrot in Art

From Dürer to Elizabeth Butterworth

Richard Verdi

    ISBN: 978 1 85759 476 8

    Size: 274 x 196 mm / 7.75 x 10.75 in.

    Binding: Paperback

    Pages: 112

    In association with:

    Date published: January, 2007

    UK £17.95 /US $29.95


  • Comprehensive study of one of art history’s more original themes
  • Includes work by artists including Dürer, Steen, Goya, Edward Lear and Quentin Blake


With their spectacularly coloured plumage and ability to mimic human speech, parrots have long held a place in man’s affections as one of the most uncanny and wondrous of birds, and for centuries artists have accorded them diverse roles in their works. This beautiful book draws on examples of paintings, drawings and prints from some of the finest art collections in the world. As an art historian and parrot-lover, Richard Verdi is well placed to reveal the remarkable history of this bird’s complex symbolism in art. Since the Middle Ages the parrot has represented the Virgin birth of Christ, or acted as an eye-witness to the Fall of Man. It has also been celebrated as a domestic pet, featuring more prominently in Dutch scenes of ordinary life than in any other category of painting. In addition to making frequent appearances in still lifes and portraits, it sometimes impersonates or stands in for people, plays the role of a woman’s surrogate lover, or mocks and comments on the follies of human behaviour. Richard Verdi presents works from all genres and periods, by artists including Dürer, Steen, Tiepolo, Goya and Quentin Blake. He also encompasses the distinct but related field of natural history illustration with examples by Ferdinand Bauer, Edward Lear and the finest living parrot artist, Elizabeth Butterworth.

Author information

Richard Verdi taught history of art at the universities of Manchester and York before becoming Professor of Fine Art and Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham in 1990. A specialist is seventeenth-century art, he has written extensively on Poussin. He is also the author of books on Klee and Cézanne.