Jean-Franois Millet (French, 1814-1875)
Jean-Franois Millet (French, 1814-1875)

Vert-Vert (The Nuns' Parrot)

Jean-Franois Millet (French, 1814-1875)
Millet, J.-F.
Vert-Vert (The Nuns' Parrot)
oil on canvas
12 x 16 in. (32.4 x 40.7 cm.)
Painted in 1839
Madame Bonnel.
Brame and Lorenceau, Paris (1968).
Gallery Iida, Tokyo.
Private collection, Japan (by 1976).
A. Sensier and P. Mantz, la Vie et l'oeuvre de J.-F. Millet, Paris, 1881, p. 68.
E. Moreau-Nlaton, Millet racont par lui-mme, Paris, 1921, vol. I, p. 31, fig. 8.
Y. Iida, J. F. Millet, Tokyo, 1979, p. 192, fig. 3 (illustrated).
Tokyo, Gallery Isetan, Millet, Corot, Courbet et l'cole de Barbizon, 1976-77, no. 42. This exhibition traveled to Utsunomiya, Kumamoto, Nara and Nagoya.
Kofu, Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Jean-Franois Millet et L'cole de Barbizon, 1979, no. 35.
Sale room notice
We are grateful to Alexandra R. Murphy for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

Lot Essay

Vert-Vert, painted by Jean-Franois Millet in 1839, illustrates a humorous poem by J.B.L. Gresset about an outspoken parrot. Millet undertook the picture just as he was beginning to launch a career after two years of study at the cole des Beaux-Arts.

The eighteenth century poem tells the story of Vert-Vert, a parrot raised by a convent of nuns, who coddled the bird with special treats and taught him to speak a large number of religious phrases and bits of prayers. Very proud of their pet, the nuns sent Vert-Vert to another convent to display his cleverness; but during the voyage, the parrot picked up a number of vulgar expressions, curses, and flirtatious remarks which scandalized the good nuns. In Millet's painting, a procession from the two convents, distinguished by their robes of different colors, are taking Vert-Vert into a chapel to try to exorcise his foul vocabulary.

As Millet was setting out on his own in Paris in 1839-40, he often took his subjects from the fables of La Fontaine or popular folk tales, as such humorous stories were widely recognized and more easily marketed to one of the capital's small picture dealers.

Millet also made a pair of pastels illustrating Vert-Vert and its companion picture Le Lutrin Vivant. Simpler in composition, the pastels probably preceded the paintings, perhaps by only a few months. The Vert-Vert pastel is known only from a photograph from the beginning of this century.

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