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Birds have long been a source of artistic inspiration.

Auguste Bouvier (c. 1837-81)

Lesbia and the Sparrow c.1856

RCIN 933853

Queen's Sitting Room, Osborne House

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This painting of Lesbia and the Sparrow takes as its subject the love poem written by the Roman poet Catallus. In the poem, he watches enviously as his sweetheart, whom he calls Lesbia, lavishes attention on her pet bird. Watercolourist Auguste Bouvier depicts Lesbia wearing swathes of pastel-coloured fabrics, echoing Graeco-Roman attire. Following Lesbia’s gaze, the viewer is drawn to the tiny sparrow she holds to her lips.

This painting was one of Prince Albert’s final gifts to Queen Victoria before his untimely death in 1861. It may have inspired the watercolour of a female figure kissing a robin which Princess Louise painted several years later