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GIRL PLAYING WITH A BIRD ON A STRING
SN 375, oil on canvas, 1717
From "The Pages"
Raoux was born in Montpellier in 1677, died in Paris in 1734. After initial training in his home town, he moved to Paris, studied with Bon Boullogne, & won the Prix du Rome in 1704. As a prize he was awarded a trip to Italy to study, completing his education at the Académie de France in Rome, and spending time in Florence, Padua, & Venice.
Becoming an historical painter, in 1717 (along with Antoine Watteau) he was made a full member of the Adadémie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture in Paris.
Raoux was a talented portrait and genre painter as well. He worked in London with Watteau. At this time, painters were portraying the ordinary aspects of life (genre) – including Rembrandt (who was then just another painter, albeit a talented one). Voltaire called Raoux “France’s Rembrandt.”
His paintings on classical & literary themes have the light & cheerful atmosphere of fêtes galantes; all are drawn and arranged well.
A beautiful young woman with long curls and flowers in her hair is playing with a bird held with a long string. Raoux has taken the theme used in Dutch genre painting and lightened it up with flowers and a bird. FYI: Birds released from cages symbolized sexual freedom, too.
The painting is in Watteau’s Rococo technique – smaller forms than in Baroque, and shimmering, feminine colors. It was the fashion to have small paintings for the small rooms in town houses. (Some were indeed very small, to set on tables.)
Raoux was one of a group of French painters who often employed a Rembrandtesque treatment of light.
Raoux also painted allegorical portraits of well known personages such as actess Mille Prevost who similarly raises her arm in dance position. Likewise, the dancer Barbarina by A. Pesne records the great dancer with raised arm; it originally hung in Frederick the Great’s study in Berlin.