|Isaac van Amburgh and his Animals
|Sir Edwin Henry Landseer
|175 x 113 cm (5' 8.9" x 3' 8.49")
|Royal Collection Windsor Castle (London United Kingdom)
Issac Van Amburgh is a name less celebrated today, but he was God for many during the 1800s. The man died aged about 65, and left a legacy that I will definitely remember when I see the next freak playing with a leopard or crocodile on National Geographic.
Animal trainer and knighthood recipient, Van Amburgh was one of the most popular animals man in his day. He is also responsible for introducing lions, panthers, tigers and the lot to circus. Such was the prowess of his training abilities.
The painting depicts an occasion when he surprised everybody by entering a cage with a lion, a tiger, two leopards, a bear and a lamb! Legend has it that he also faced a panther on a similar occasion, where the beast was about to pounce out aggression on Van Amburgh. However, he managed to calm the panther’s nerves immediately causing him almost to cower away.
The presence of the lamb surprised me. This is more than National Geographic. It is not just about being friendly with the animals, but voiding them of every little sense of predatory possibility they might have. Besides, the presence of Van Amburgh seems to glorify the animals, probably because they know they can now do new and extraordinary things because of his training – remember the circus fact.
Van Amburgh has proved his abilities since an early age. His fear of animals is something it seems he never needed to outgrow. I guess he was just born that way.
The painting shows him relaxed in a manner that almost suggests that the women are hiding in the mountain of animals. The animals probably brought him a similar degree of pleasure as a bevy of women would to a debauched king. Oil on canvas paintings are meant to deliver a bold and confident message through the colors. And this one does so quite fittingly across all 5 feet and 3 on the other.