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The Eagle and the Magpie
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Jean-Baptiste Oudry
French, Paris, 1733
Brush and black ink, gray wash, heightened with white gouache, on blue paper
12 1/16 x 10 1/16 in.
2002.52.3

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An eagle and a magpie meet while flying over a field. The eagle invites the magpie to join him on his flight across the countryside, but cautions her to say only good things because other birds may overhear them. Disregarding the warning, the Magpie chats away and offers to share gossip, which offends the eagle. Jean-Baptiste Oudry's rendition of the tale shows the eagle flying away from the magpie. The moral of the fable is that in the company of others, it is necessary to be discreet with words.

Oudry often depicted animals in his art. He was especially inspired by poet Jean de La Fontaine's Fables, a popular collection of satires written in the 1600s. Over a five-year period, he produced 276 illustrations of the fables, rendered in meticulous detail, with loose and inventive brushwork. Oudry eventually sold the drawings, which were published in a luxury edition of La Fontaine's Fables in 1755.