The Dead Englishman (1882)
19th FRENCH SCHOOL
Oil on canvas; monogrammed LR and dated to the right
In period gilt ripple frame
Perdrix Perdrix, the grey-legged or English partridge was the staple of sporting England for centuries, the toast of the hedgerow, the champagne in a blue October sky. In its diffidence and faithfulness as well as its ubiquity, it was and still should be our national bird. Yet farming methods have for decades drastically reduced its numbers.
It is an irony of some pathos then that the global HQ of this wonderful bird – where it thrives in Edwardian numbers – is now found on the chalky downlands of Picardy (where with near certainty this picture was painted), an area for this country again of abiding national significance. Indeed it is the place of our national calvary – the Somme.
This magnificent so-titled painting of this emblematic bird, with even in death, its trademark horseshoe resplendent on its heart, seems to us a harbinger of what was to come. Indeed it is difficult for an Englishman to see this painting as anything less than an image of avian crucifixion.