On that note, I found, in my email inbox this morning, a question from a friend posed like so, "Do you know?" Below is the question:
I first read it with a chuckle. Who would think to query this? And then I read it again with curiosity. And said, "Yeah! Why and how?" In my search for answers, I found that squirrels were not only a subject of note in British 18th Century paintings but also in American 18th Century paintings and French 16th Century paintings and in fact throughout several centuries and countries.
It seems the squirrel was a popular pet. And in fact, their keepers loved them so much that this pet consistently evoked poetry:
From The Virginia Gazette, December 15, 1768
A Young Lady's Complaint on the Death of her Squirrel.
A thing so pretty as my PHIL,
A thing so sprightly and so queer,
The pet I lov'd so very dear,
To rob me of the pretty elf,
For him I've lost each night's repose,
Nothing enjoying but my woes.
Oh could my squirrel but survive,
But he is gone ! ne'er to return!
And useless 'tie to sigh and mourn.
I'll therefore seek another pet ,
Amongst the fops or empty beaus,
Because he'd surely make me fret,
And prove a very worthless pet.
And the paintings:
|1760 John Singleton Copley (American artist, 1738-1815). Boy (Henry Pelham) with a Squirrel.|
|1765 John Singleton Copley (American artist, 1738-1815). Frances Deering Wentworth (Mrs. Theodore Atkinson, Jr.)|
|1790 Denison Limner Probably Joseph Steward (American artist, 1753-1822). Miss Denison of Stonington, Connecticut possibly Matilda.|
|1526 Hans Holbein the Younger (1498–1543) Lady with a Squirrel on a chain.|
|1580's Portrait of a Lady, possibly the Poet Maddalena Salvetti (1557-1610), in a Green Dress and a pet Black Squirrel with a bell collar.|
|1600's Frederic Kerseboom (1632-1690) Lady with a Red Squirrel on a Chain and a Spaniel|
|1700's Joseph Highmore (English artist, 1692-1780) A Portrait of a Boy with a Pet Squirrel.|
|1730 Unknown French artist, Portrait of an Unknown French Lady Holding Flowers and a Red Squirrel with a bell collar.|
Did I, however, get the answers to the how and why? No. I did not. If anyone knows, please enlighten me!