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A papier-mache tray depicting 'The Nubian Giraffe'

A Jennens & Bettridge papier-mache tray of oval form with polychrome decoration, the fine central painting after Jacques-Laurent Agasse’s ‘The Nubian Giraffe’.

English, c. 1827-1830
The giraffe depicted on this tray, a gift to George IV from the Pasha of Egypt and the first of the species to be seen in England, arrived at Windsor in 1827, where it was housed in the menagerie at Sandpit Gate on the edge of the Great Park. Jacques-Laurent Agasse was commissioned to paint the giraffe in her enclosure, accompanied by her two Arab keepers, the cows maintained to provide milk for the juvenile animal, and Edward Cross, the owner of the Exeter Change menagerie who had been co-opted for his professional advice on the new acquisition.

The giraffe’s arrival prompted a brief period of so-called ‘giraffamania’, during which the decorative arts and fashion were inspired by the striking patterns and height of the animal. At the same time, a raft of satirical prints poked fun at the monarch and his new pet. It is probable that this tray was made during this period.

The giraffe, never especially healthy, died after only two years and it was not until 1836, when the Zoological Society of London imported a small herd, that giraffes were seen again in Britain.

The composition of the image after Agasse on the tray is interesting. The cattle in the background are excised and the landscape is extended to the left and right to fill the necessary space.

29 3/4 inches wide

Reference: 4502

Price: £8,800

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