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A jaguar, clearly a young female, reclines on moss-covered ground in a rocky landscape amid grottos. Stretched out full length with her right flank turned to the viewer and her eyes closed, she seems to be sleeping. Cuyp has painted the smaller cub in the background, meanwhile, in tension, its ears pricked, teeth bared and tail erect. Its direct gaze and glittering eyes mesmerize the viewer.
The painter Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp recorded his impressions as naturalistically as possible: the female’s hind legs are extended, one laid over the other, and her right forepaw is bent; while her left foreleg, turned to reveal its underside, seems to be protruding from the picture. Her tongue and canines are visible in her open maw.
Cuyp, the leading portraitist in Dordrecht during the first half of the 17th century, owed his renown in large part to his likenesses of children in a landscape. In this piece he has created something relatively rare for Dutch painting, a picture devoted exclusively to animals. Such animal paintings as did exist at the time tended to feature the usual household pets and beasts of labour; a jaguar, on the other hand, is an extremely exotic creature and, as the New World’s lone big cat, constituted a true sensation in Europe at the time. The first examples were probably brought home to the Netherlands of South America from Brazilian expeditions during the Dutch colonization. Perhaps Cuyp saw his subjects in the celebrated menagerie of the governor of The Hague.
Cuyp’s immense talent is evident in this painting, in which the depiction of the jaguars’ fur shows the highest mastery. The fine hairs in the animals’ beards, their claws, the underside of a paw, and reflections of light are also rendered with great skill and attention to detail.

Details

  • Title: Two Jaguars
  • Creator: Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp
  • Creator Lifespan: 1594 – 1652
  • Creator Death Place: Dordrecht
  • Creator Birth Place: Dordrecht
  • Date Created: 1639
  • Physical Dimensions: 43,5 x 55 cm
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: Kunsthaus Zürich, Online Collection
  • Medium: Oil on oak panel
  • Art Movement: Baroque
  • Original title: Zwei Jaguare
  • Inventory number: 2004/0025
  • Credit line: Kunsthaus Zürich, Acquired in memory of Peter Alther with funds of his bequest, 2004

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