Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
The Nubian Giraffe
This famous giraffe calf was sent by Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt, to George IV; it arrived in England in August 1827 and was installed at George IV’s menagerie in Windsor but died two years later. In 1827 Agasse painted the entire entourage surrounding this exotic animal: two Egyptian cows who acted as wet-nurses; two Arab keepers and the menagerie owner, Edward Cross (1773-1854), who supervised the giraffe’s brief time in Windsor.
This is the portrait of a noble animal’s captivity, with solicitous keepers trying to persuade him to drink or perhaps examining his urine. The fact that his immense neck is bent is not an accident but a symbol of his condition. The perfect profile of the view reminds us that Agasse trained with the Neo-classical painter Jacques-Louis David.