An Oils on Board Study of Three Scotch Fancy Canaries by J. White 1896

Origin: British
Period: Late Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1896
Height: 15.25”
Width: 13”
Depth: 1.25” (in frame)

The beautifully balanced oil on panel, depicting three scotch fancy or Glasgow dons, being a particular breed of canary, each sat on perches and in profile to a dark ocre ground, and signed and dated lower right J. White 1896, the whole presented in a later gilded and glazed frame and surviving from the zeniths of the Victorian period.

The painting is in good overall condition with it having been cleaned and varnished at some stage in the twentieth century and framed in a contemporary frame and glazed to protect it.

The year of 1896 saw the Lumiere Brothers first project their films in Britain, Blackpool Pleasure Beach amusement park established and Walter Arnold of Kent receives the first speeding conviction for driving in excess of the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph.

Elsewhere the Victorians took canary-keeping to new heights. Canaries were engaging in manner, active, and easy to keep. They were quickly domesticated and by the 1850s the birds could be found in a variety of colours and shapes, including golden-orange Belgians, yellow Norfolks, Yorkshire spangles, and London fancies.

These unusual birds are understood to be a variety of the Belgian Canary that was particularly noted for their stylish bent back position, a result of breeding. Mr. Robert Forsyth of Edinburgh described the old fashioned don as “small birds, with plenty of action, and cranked necks and crooked tails” and the bird was popular in Glasgow and the Central Lowland part of Scotland and was known as the 'Glasgow Don' before the Scotch Fancy.

According to John Robson in his work the scotch fancy and the Belgian canary published in 1898, two years after this picture was painted, he wrote “At the present time many try to convert the name of this bird into “Scots” fancy, but if we take the catalogues of all the principal shows in Scotland, the home of the bird ,we never find it under such a name, the word “scotch” always being used. Some thirty years ago, or even more than that, it was known as the “Glasgow Don” or “Glasgow fancy” the bird in those days was small and neat”.

One rarely sees representations of canaries in oils and this is a striking and beautiful painting in a distinctive style.