RSS RSS feed | Atom Atom feed

With the Elegance of Courtiers: Oudry's Graceful Animals

For me, one of the most revealing aspects of this fascinating exhibition were the many "Claras" in porcelain and other precious materials that brought up the last segment of the great animal parade.

Witty and endlessly inventive, they called me to notice the decorative aspects of the animals in Oudry's paintings and drawings as well. Although, as many viewers have noted, Oudry was certainly interested in capturing naturalistic qualities of the animals at rest and in action, he also gave them an elegance worthy of the most subtle of European courtiers.

The Indian Blackbuck (below left), for example, executes a complicated twist in its body, facing in one direction, but spiraling around to look at us with a motion that ravels upwards into the horns. (I particularly noticed the elegance of Oudry's blackbuck when I saw the very same animal depicted in a much more pedestrian, "realistic" manner in a diorama in my local natural history museum!)

Indian Blackbuck / Oudry Hyena / Oudry
Left: Indian Blackbuck, 1739; right: Hyena (detail), 1739
Staatliches Museum Schwerin

Virtually all of Oudry's animals contain some kind of opposition within their bodies that gives them a quality of inborn grace or subtle know-how; even the Cassowary, ungainly as it is, turns to looks back sharply with the precision of a soloist on stage. And the snarling Hyena (above right) as the catalogue to the exhibition shows, found its way into an intimately scaled table sculpture in terracotta—not far from the decorative Claras featured in the exhibition's last room.

In the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts there is an even more unlikely white porcelain version of this strange, scary creature, who in Oudry's vision becomes a decorative player in its own right, with head tilted at just the right angle and fur ruffled to form a great arc that flows into the curve of the snapping hound below.

Add a comment | Send a TrackBack