A Tiger's Den (England, 1816)

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Oil on canvas
Signed J S Northcote pinxt. 1816


101.50cm high
119.50cm wide
(39.96 inches high)
(47.05 inches wide)
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Bought by Sir Arthur Grey Hazlerigg Bt, 11th Baronet, from the artist in 1817 for thirty guineas
By descent in the family to 1998


mss. invoice for the frame, Leicestershire County Records Office from Samuel Pearse of Harris and Pearse, London, 28th August 1818 value £30.16s.
Stephen Gwynn, Memorials of an Eighteenth Century Painter (James Northcote), T. Fisher Unwin, Ltd. London 1898
Arthur Renals, An Inventory of the contents of Noseley Hall, Leicestershire, 1st October 1912 Noseley Catalogue, 1929, page 22
Jacob Simon, The Account Book of James Northcote, Walpole Society, 1996, Volume LV111, page 101, number 623
Diana Donald, Picturing Animals in Britain 1750-1850, Yale University Press, 2007, illustrated page 169, catalogue number 153

Exhibition History

London, Royal Academy, 1817, number 301

Description / Expertise

James Northcote is one of the most notable links between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Born early in the reign of George II, he lived to paint the portrait of John Ruskin; he exhibited with Reynolds and Turner.
He was born in Plymouth, October 22, 1746. He received little or no education and at the age of 25 arrived in London. It was here that he spent time under the tutelage of Sir Joshua Reynolds, as an apprentice and drapery assistant. He lived with Reynolds for five years and then set himself up as a portrait painter. Within a couple of years he had earned enough money to go to Italy for two years.
On returning to London, Northcote found it increasingly hard to obtain commissions and turning to historical painting, found he established himself in that field. He died on July 13, 1831 at the age of eighty-five, having lived for half a century almost exclusively in his painting room.
A Tiger’s Den came from Noseley Hall in Leicestershire. The owner, Sir Arthur Grey Hazlerigg, had purchased it from the Royal Academy in 1817. The picture has hung in its original frame in the drawing room at Noseley Hall until it was purchased in September 1998.
In 1816 zoos did not exist. The two boys, confronted by tigers for the very first time, are at the Royal Menagerie in the Tower of London. The Royal Armouries and The Royal Collection are coordinating an exhibition of the Menagerie for late 1999 and have requested the loan of the painting.