The reappearance of this small picture and the following lot, which have been unknown to recent scholars of the artist’s work, are important additions to Jacques-Laurent Agasse’s celebrated corpus of exotic animal painting. This picture is a rare example of the artist working on such a small and intimate scale. The composition appears in Agasse’s record book: ‘February 1829: A small picture of the Giraffe’. The giraffe in question had been presented to King George IV in 1827 by Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt. Weakened by a long and arduous journey from the Nubian desert to London, the giraffe had, by the time of its arrival to England, lost the use of its legs and died soon afterwards. Agasse’s friend Edward Cross, the owner of the eponymous menagerie on the Strand in London, had been entrusted by the King to supervise the landing and transportation of the giraffe to Windsor. Agasse painted the animal on this occasion, showing it in the company of its two Arab keepers and Cross himself, in a painting still in the Royal Collection today.
We are grateful to Renée Loche for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs.