Wenzel Peter, Johann attributed to

Karlsbad 1745 - Rome 1829
Biography & List of works

Johann Peter Wenzel, Royal Bengal Tigers

Johann Peter Wenzel, Royal Bengal Tigers


Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 137 x 182 cm

Signed: Inscribed on the reverse: tigres de Bengala


Said to have come from the Palacio de San Lúcar de Barrameda, the home of King Louis Philippe’s son, Antoine, styled the Duke of Montpensier; Private collection, Seville; Sotheby’s Old Master Evening Sale, London, 7 December 2011, lot 32, as ‘by continental school- 19th century’.

The painting here depicts two Bengal tigers, known in the eighteenth and nineteenth century as ‘Royal Bengal tigers,’ the majestic animal then native to north-eastern India, the Bay of Bengal and Nepal. For this reason, early depictions of the species by European artists, certainly on this scale, were rare. Comparative images kindly provided by the Vatican Museums support the attribution to Peter, whose mastery of the subject was unequalled by his European contemporaries.

Much like the unsigned pair of large-scale Lions, recently restored to their original appearance, in the Vatican’s comprehensive collection of Peter’s work, the tigers in the painting here have exquisitely painted fur, beautifully captured with minute and delicate brushwork over exacting draughtsmanship. The landscape in the background is equally developed, careful to show an active, instead of reposed, group of tigers in hunting. If there exists a slight stiffness to all of the animals Wenzel Peter painted on a large scale, one must consider how rare the opportunity to observe these exotic creatures from life was in Rome of his day.