Though the Victorians were the first to collect birdcages, the hobby of bird-keeping and the craft of cage-making date back to the ancient Greeks. In virtually every culture, the bird has been a metaphor for the human soul, and the birdcage the corporeal prison of the soul. The years 1750 to 1850 witnessed the most fanciful and lavish birdcage designs, and during this period, exotic breeds of birds were kept as symbols of refinement and status.
This extravagant birdcage illustrates the exuberance with which this craft was practiced. The celebrated Rialto Bridge in Venice, designed by Antonio da Ponte at the end of the sixteenth century, was the inspiration for this birdcage given by Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt to the collection. The architectural details and intricate wire scrollwork of this cage, which dates from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, create the essence of its charm.