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This is the largest, most ambitious and dramatic of the series of ’candlelight' pictures Wright painted during the 1760s. It captures the drama of a staged scientific experiment but it also functions as a vanitas – a painting concerning the passing of time, the limits of human knowledge and the frailty of life itself.
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump
oil on canvas
H 183 x W 244 cm
Presented by Edward Tyrrell, 1863