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Antoine-Louis Barye, 1796-1875

Tiger Hunt, Elephant Mounted by Indians

Description:Read An Essay On This Drawing

fig 1, Antoine-Louis Barye, Tiger Hunt, bronze, 1834-37. The Walters Art Museum, 27.176

Although Antoine-Louis Barye never visited the Near East and, indeed, never left France, he nurtured a lifelong interest in Orientalist themes. Tiger Huntrepresents a scene set in India. Barye shows the moment when a hunter and his two attendants fight off the attack of two tigers, one of which attempts to drag the men from their howdah, while the other has plunged its claws into the hind legs of the elephant. The attendants are armed only with a stick and spear, but the hunter wears a suit of chain mail and holds a shield and katar, a rare kind of ancient Indian dagger. Barye's watercolor is closely related to the bronze of the same subject in the Walters Art Museum (fig. 1), which was the central work of an elaborate surtout, or table centerpiece, commissioned by the duc d'Orléans in 1834. Barye completed this bronze in 1836, and it has generally been considered a high point of Romantic baroque sculpture.

The Baltimore Museum of Art watercolor includes a landscape background that gives the scene the appearance of a resolved image. The watercolor can thus be considered a variant of the subject of Barye's bronze rather than a preparatory study. Barye's handling of his medium is unusually transparent, and the background is generalized and does not represent a particular site. Such elements are characteristic of Barye's early watercolors and suggest that this image was produced during the mid-1830s. As in many of his drawings, Barye achieves a granular effect in the sky by scrubbing away his watercolor with a rag. The watercolor has a red chalk pentimento showing the original position of the figure holding the spear.

fig 2, Antoine-Louis Barye, The Tiger Hunt, watercolor. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 76.19 Barye spent a great deal of time and energy on the subject of Tiger Hunt, and there are a number of drawings related to this ambitious project. The Corcoran Gallery of Art has a large-scale watercolor variant (fig. 2).1 There is also a study in black chalk (Musée du Louvre). The two studies closest to The Baltimore Museum of Art watercolor are a pencil drawing with squaring up (a system for transferring drawings) (Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris) and a tracing (Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 17 December 1999, lot no. 118). Both of these studies show the figures and elephant in exactly the same position as the watercolor, although the image is reversed.

Barye's treatment of the Tiger Hunt theme reflects his awareness of a number of sources. His representation of the harness and howdah is influenced by an illustration of an elephant in a Mughal manuscript, Histoire de l'Inde, by Niccolò Manucci, which he copied in the late 1820s (fig. 3).2 Barye's composition is also indebted to English prints, particularly Edward Turner Bennett's The Tower Menagerie, which he borrowed from Delacroix's library in the late 1820s. This volume contained several drawings by the English illustrator William Harvey, and Barye is known to have copied the tailpiece for the chapter "The Asiatic Elephant."3

George Lucas recorded in his journals numerous visits to Barye's studio with William Walters and others. He purchased many of his works directly from Barye or at the artist's estate sale in 1876, when he acquired the variant Corcoran watercolor of the Tiger Hunt, which he later gave to this museum. The Baltimore Tiger Hunt, however, was acquired at a later date from the collector Le Mettais, who himself had purchased it at the estate sale. Simon Kelly

1. See Vente Barye, 1876, Eléphant monté par des indiens, chasse au tigre, lot no. 162.

2. These copies are in the Barye sketchbook in The Baltimore Museum of Art (see fols. 19v and 20r). See also G. Heard Hamilton, "The Origin of Barye's Tiger Hunt," The Walters Art Gallery Bulletin 18 (June 1936): 249 - 57.

3. See the drawing in the Walters collection documenting Barye's copying of Harvey's motif (37.2027). For the Harvey illustration, see M. Roudabush Norelli, "The Watercolors of Antoine-Louis Barye," in Antoine-Louis Barye (Washington, D.C., 1989), 63-65.

Medium: Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite or black chalk with traces of red chalk and scraping on thick, cream, moderately textured wove paper
Dimensions: Sheet: 452 x 618 mm.
Date: ca. 1836
Category: animal
Subject: Elephant Hunters Tiger
Alternate Title: El?phant mont? par des Indiens - chasse au tigre
Inscriptions and Markings: RECTO: LR, red stamp, 'BARYE.'
Exhibition History: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 'Parallels and Precedents: The George A. Lucas Collection in Context', Aug. 23-Oct. 15, 1995. The Baltimore Museum of Art, 'Beauties and Beasts: Barye from the the George A. Lucas Collection', May 13-Aug. 30, 1992. The Baltimore Museum of Art, 'Master Drawings by French Artists in the Museum's Collection', May 14-July 23, 1989. The Baltimore Museum of Art, Downtown Gallery, 'Selections from the Lucas Collection', July 21-Aug. 22, 1975. The Baltimore Museum of Art, 'George A. Lucas Collection of the Maryland Institute', Oct. 12-Nov. 21, 1965, p. 63, no. 297. Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, TX, Feb. 7-March 7, 1965. San Jose State College, 'Barye', March 18-April 2, 1963. The Maryland Institute, Baltimore, 'Exhibition of Paintings, Bronzes and Porcelains of the George A. Lucas Collection', 1911, p. 98, no. 595. Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 'Oeuvres de Barye,' April 1889, no. 506. Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 'Catalogue des oeuvres de Antoine-Louis Barye, membre de l'Institut', Nov.-Dec. 1875, no. 444.
Bibliography: Lilien F. Robinson and Edward J. Nygren, Antoine-Louis Barye: The Corcoran Collection, Washington, D.C., 1988, p. 64, fig. 75.
Related Works: See the surtout de table commissioned by the duke of Orl?ans now in the collection of the Walters Art Museum. There is also a measured drawing from a sketchbook illustrated in Smith, 1906 (the February sale catalogue lists a drawing of the subject on p. 17, no. 194). See also same subject in the collection of the Corcoran, formerly of the Lucas Collection. The photographs for these two subjects are mistakenly switched in Zieseniss (E 9 and E 10).
Provenance: BMA by purchase, 1996; The Maryland Institute, College of Art, 1911; Henry Walters (1848-1931), Baltimore, 1909; George A. Lucas (1824-1909), Paris, by exchange with Le Mettais; Le Mettais, Paris, 1876, from the Barye Sale for 300 francs; Barye Sale, H?tel Drouot, Paris, Feb. 7-12, 1876, no. 163.
Collection: The Baltimore Museum of Art
Credit Line: The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas Collection, purchased with funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community
Object Number: BMA 1996.48.18800