9704 A rare pair of Regency or early Victorian wax diorama pictures, a lion and a tiger set in a naturalistic cave opening surrounded by foliage, and in original gilt gesso glazed box frames.
Collection of Lord Berners, Faringdon House.
Width: 13.5 ins (34.5 cm)
Height: 11.75 ins (30 cm)
Depth: 4.5 ins (11.5 cm)
This very rare pair of animal diorama relate to the well known “Royal Menagerie” an unlikely location on the first floor of the Exeter Exchange on the Strand. Originally used as a winter enclosure for the travelling zoo of Mr Pidcock, the business was bought by Stephen Polito who enlarged and marketed the experience of coming face to face with the savage animals of the far continents. The list of animals was impressive and could compete with the Tower Menagerie in the Tower of London, being the true Royal collection and dating back to 1230.
The cost of admittance to Politos Royal Menagerie was 2 shillings, considered expensive by reviewers and double the charge of the Tower Menagerie. Animals were crowded into small, individual wooden cells with iron bars, painted decoration around the walls provided an atmospheric and theatrical experience and is known from contemporary prints. Tigers and lions were a key part of Politos attraction though perhaps his most famous animal was Chunee the Indian elephant, one of three in the menagerie who was regularly walked by his keeper along the strand for exercise.
These wax dioramas in their original gilt frames were possibly part of the merchandising of Polito’s Royal Menagerie which included spectacular and rare Staffordshire groups manufactured as souvenirs of one of Regency London’s great tourist attractions.