Description & Technical information

The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is native to mainland Asia, and is smaller than African elephant. Nicolas Huet made this drawing at the menagerie of the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, part of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

This drawing depicts one of a pair of elephants - a male and a female, originally from Ceylon – taken from William V of Orange’s menagerie at Het Loo during the French occupation of the Netherlands in 1795 and presented to the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in 1798. Although the male elephant, known as Hans, died of pneumonia in 1802, the female elephant drawn here by Huet - who had been named Parkie by the Dutch and was renamed Marguerite in France - lived for a total of 34 years before her death, of unknown causes, at the Jardin des Plantes in March 1816.

Two years before the present sheet was drawn, Huet exhibited another drawing of what may have been the same female elephant at the Paris Salon of 1808. He also drew an elephant, depicted eating some grass with a curled trunk, for the Collection de mammifères du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, published in 1808.

The present sheet may be grouped with a handful of highly finished drawings in watercolour and gouache on vellum by Nicolas Huet the Younger that have appeared on the art market in recent years. These include an American Cougar, signed and dated 1811, sold at auction in London in 2004, and a Tiger, signed and dated 1812, which appeared at auction in New York in 2007. Another example is a drawing of a giraffe presented to Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt, dated 1827 and on paper rather than vellum, which is today in the collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

Date:  1810
Period:  1750-1850, 19th century
Origin:  France
Medium: Pen, Brown ink, Watercolour, Gouache, vellum laid down on board
Signature: Signed and dated huet fils 1810 at the lower right. Inscribed L’Elephant femelle, Elephas indien, / Par huet peintre du Muséum d’histoire naturelle à Paris. on the verso.

Dimensions: 31.2 x 44.6 cm (12¹/₄ x 17¹/₂ inches)
Literature: Sally-Ann Héry-Simoulin, ‘Les Animaux observes par Barye au Muséum’, in Emmanuelle Brugerolles, ed., Antoine-Louis Barye, “Le Michel-Ange de la Ménagerie”, exhibition catalogue, Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, 2013-2014, p.93, fig.XIII.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints