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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