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Jacopo de' Barbari, A Sparrowhawk

Key facts
Full title A Sparrowhawk
Artist Jacopo de' Barbari
Artist dates active 1500; died 1516?
Date made 1510s
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 17.8 × 10.8 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3088
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Sparrowhawk
Jacopo de' Barbari

This picture of a female sparrowhawk is one of two known paintings of birds by the Venetian artist Jacopo de' Barbari, who worked in the noble courts of Germany and the Netherlands. It is a probably a fragment of a larger painting made quite late in Jacopo’s life, perhaps when he was working in the Netherlands.

The bird is painted alive, bathed in bright natural light – the lean creature and its perch cast a strong shadow on the wall. A small bell just above its left foot would alert its handler to its whereabouts as it was flying. It is tied by a slender piece of rope, but its bright eye shows how keenly alert it is to the world.

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