Caspar Netscher trained in Deventer with Gerard ter Borch, from about 1654 to 1659. Like his teacher, Netscher became an outstanding portraitist as well as a master of portraying the social interactions of the Dutch elite. He also developed an exquisite painting technique that allowed him to imitate a wide range of textures, whether linen, satin, or the rough nap of an oriental rug. Around 1662, after a short trip to France where he married, Netscher settled in the courtly city of The Hague. There he found a clientele eager for his refined scenes of ladies at the toilet, musical companies, and gallant soldiers. He soon turned his attention to portraiture, much like other contemporary "high life" genre painters, including Frans van Mieris.
Signed and dated "CNetscher . Ao . 16.66," A Young Woman Feeding a Parrot is one of Netscher's finest genre paintings. It depicts an elegant young woman, wearing a gold-colored dress with split sleeves, gazing coquettishly out at the viewer as she feeds an African grey parrot perched on her right hand. Peering up at her from the dim recesses of the interior is an attentive pageboy holding a silver tray. The woman and her attendant stand behind an illusionistic stone niche with a bronze-colored silk curtain pinned to the side. A sumptuous oriental carpet spilling out over the bottom ledge adds to the illusionism as it partially obscures roman numerals that are seemingly carved into the stone. The remarkable range of Netscher's painting techniques is evident in the juxtaposition of the precisely articulated steel bird cage and the woman's shimmering dress, which Netscher modelled with softer and more fluid strokes.
A Young Woman Feeding a Parrot is in excellent condition. Netscher's brushwork is exquisite, his textures dazzling, and his colors disarmingly radiant. This masterpiece, which the Nazis confiscated from a Belgian family in 1942, has been in the Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal since 1952. It was recently restituted to the family's heirs, and sold at auction in 2014, where it was purchased by the art dealer Richard Green. This acquisition will complement the Gallery's other outstanding high-life genre scenes by Gerard ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, Frans van Mieris, Jacob Ochtervelt, and Johannes Vermeer. Fortunately, Lee and Juliet Folger/The Folger Fund have offered to purchase the painting, another extraordinary demonstration of their generosity and commitment to the National Gallery of Art.