Friday, October 05, 2007

Victoria's animal secrets

In the 1830s, Isaac Van Amburgh became a star of the rising Broadway stage. He was not an actor, neither a singer or a pianist. He acted pantomimes among his menagerie’s beasts. Crossing the ocean, he became a popular celebrity, establishing in Europe the tradition of the “lion drama”. It is said that he put peace between man and the animals, the lion and the lamb: at a point that Queen Victoria asked to visit the four-legged performers backstage during the day “for the purpose of seeing the animals in their more excited and savage state during the operation of feeding them”. And, for the purpose of guarantee to the young Queen her most reserved emotions and fantasies, “the animals had been kept purposely without food for six and thirty hours”.

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-73), a prominent painter of the victorian era, assured to Van Amburgh the posterity with two beautiful oils, today in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. Reproduced here is “Isaac Van Amburgh and his Animals (1839)”.

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