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Europeans & Americans Abroad; Philadelphia Collection 73; September 2004
 
 
painting
 
Walter Dendy Sadler
(English, 1854–1923)
Safer Than the Bank, 1874
Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 × 21 inches
Signed, dated, and inscribed at lower right: “W. [D]endy. Sadler./DUSS[E]LDORF 74”

By including a magpie in Safer Than the Bank, Walter Dendy Sadler has made his genre painting an allegory of miserly greed. In the painting, an old man, dressed in the clothing of an indeterminate earlier period, distrustfully eyes a black bird with white-marked wings. A member of the crow family, the magpie (L. pica) is attracted by shiny objects, which it has been known to hoard. In the Metamorphoses (V, 117), Ovid writes of the transformation of Euippe’s daughters into magpies, and (II, 360) identifies the magpie with a wily person, or thief.


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