This drawing depicts a true story that was the subject of a book written by Georges Toscan, director of the menagerie of the Jardin des plantes, in 1795. In Senegal a lion was raised with a pointer dog, both roaming freely in their master's house and eating the leftovers from his table. After some time the animals were given together to the director of the Compagnie des Indes who sent them to France. They arrived in Versailles on 28 September 1788, aged seven or eight months. In France, the lion reverted to his true nature and became very fierce, but with the dog he was always gentle, sharing the same cage and food: the lion would start gnawing at bones, and the dog would finish them. The dog unfortunately became ill and died. The lion, grief-stricken, was given another dog but ate it. The story ends with 'even now when he [the lion] sees a dog passing by he roars, his grief remains for ever [....] He has lost his best friend'. The print laconically comments 'Il faisoit toute sa consolation'.
This very romantic but slightly naïve story reflects the Enlightenment and Revolutionary ideal that people (and animals) are perverted by society. The lion, being captive, lost part of his natural fierceness, and because he was well treated and lived with humans became gentle and acquired some 'human' qualities.
We are grateful to Maya Rappaport for her help in cataloguing this lot.