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Oil on canvas
Framed: 108 x 92 x 7 cm (42 1/2 x 36 1/4 x 2 3/4 in.); Unframed: 79.5 x 64 cm (31 5/16 x 25 3/16 in.)
Bequest of Noah L. Butkin 1980.274
Looking upward with eyes gleaming and mouth open, the lion conveys wild elegance. The sketch comprises short brushstrokes, and its most striking detail is the thick and plentiful mane. Undefined planes of black make up the lion's longest tresses, but closer to the face, the mane becomes increasingly light. Although the darkest parts of the mane lack precise definition, the chestnut shades of the mane host shadows and highlights that lend a sense of realism. Additionally, varied shades of brown are contrasted by the lighter, creamier shades of white at the lion's muzzle. The life-like nature of this sketch is further communicated by the bright, wet patches on the lion's nose and mouth. Likewise, a bright glimmer in the lion's right eye illustrates its vitality.
At the bottom right of the lion, a small signature attributes the painting to the French animal painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry, although this signature was a later addition, and it is actually the work of the Italian painter Baldrighi, court artist to the Dukes of Parma. Sent to Paris in 1752, Baldrighi studied with a number of leading French painters, including Oudry, leading to a number of animal studies in Oudry's style. These works emulate the elder artist's smooth handling and stem directly from Oudry's method of executing head studies of animals in expressive poses. This work has a much blunter facture, a more linear use of paint, and a lack of psychological depth in the animal's expression -- all characteristic of Baldrighi.
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