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Creator George Stubbs, 1724–1806, British
Title Zebra
Alternate Title(s) The First Zebra Seen in England
Portrait of a Zebra, standing, turned to the left, in a park
Date exhibited 1763
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 40 1/2 x 50 1/4 inches (102.9 x 127.6 cm) Frame: 47 1/2 × 57 1/4 inches (120.7 × 145.4 cm)
Credit Line Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Accession Number B1981.25.617
Collection Paintings and Sculpture
Curatorial Comment This is one of the earliest in a long series of paintings of exotic animals, many of which Stubbs produced for his friends William and John Hunter, the Scottish anatomists and men of science. Stubbs may have met John Hunter in connection with the procurement of cadavers that the older, more socially established, and more medically experienced William dissected for his pupils and other interested people in the basement of his London town house. We do not know why Stubbs painted Queen Charlotte’s zebra, or African “she-ass,” nor why the painting was still in his studio at his death, but it has long been presumed that access to the animal was arranged by William Hunter, who served regularly as accoucheur to the queen. This was in fact the first zebra to be seen in England. It was brought from South Africa in 1762 by Sir Thomas Adams, the commanding officer of H.M.S. Terpsichore, as a gift from the governor for young Queen Charlotte. Two live specimens were dispatched from the Cape of Good Hope in what Malcolm Warner has described as “Noah's-ark fashion,” but only the female survived the voyage. As soon as she reached London, the zebra was installed in the menagerie at Buckingham House (Buckingham Palace) and became an instant celebrity. “The Queen's she-ass,” wrote one observer, “was pestered with visits, and had all her hours employed from morning to night in satisfying the curiosity of the public. She had a sentinel and guard placed at the door of her stable. . . . The crowds that resorted to the Asinine palace were exceeding great,” (MacClintock, 1992, p. 4). In fact, she also inspired a number of rude songs—including this one that circulated in broadsheets: Ye Bucks and ye Jemmies who amble the Park, Whose Hearts and whose Heads are as lightsome as Cork, Through “Buckingham Gate”, as to “Chelsea” you pass, Without Fee or Reward, you may see the Q---‘s A--. “See the Q---‘s A--. See the Q---'s A--, Without Fee or Reward”, &c. (The Queen’s Ass. a new humorous allegorical song . . . By H. Howard, To the Tune of “Stick a Pin There”. Broadsheet, British Museum) Stubbs’s grasp of the anatomical differences between zebras and horses is, of course, masterly, and in the present work the backward direction of the ears, the dewlap on the underside of the neck or the front, and the “gridiron” pattern of the stripes on the nether regions, immediately above the tail—all these are exactly consistent with zoological verisimilitude and, in fact, identify the present animal as the smallest of three subspecies of zebra, the Cape Mountain. “The Queen's Ass” survived until 3 April 1773, perhaps in spite of sharing its accommodation in due course with an elephant and being moved to the Tower of London.
     -- Angus Trumble, 2007-01
Link to This Record
Subject Terms animal | animal art | dark | exoticism | forest | gifts | landscape | zebra (mammal)
Place Represented Africa

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, pp. 4, 114-5, no. 42, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

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Venetia Morrison, The art of George Stubbs, Wellfleet Press, Seacaucus, N.J., 1989, pp. 138-9, NJ18 St915 M67 1989+ (YCBA)

Stephen Deuchar, Noble exercise, the sporting ideal in eighteenth-century British art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1982, pp. 31,34,47, no. 77, ND1388 G7 D48+ (YCBA)

Judy Egerton, British Sporting and Animal Paintings 1655-1867: A Catalogue, The Paul Mellon Collection, Tate Publishing, London, 1978, pp. 74-75, no. 74, Colour Pl.11, ND1383 G7 B75 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Lindsay Rothwell, Paul Mellon's legacy, an American's passion for British art : Sackler Wing of Galleries, 20 October 2007 - 27 January 2008 : an introduction to the exhibition for teachers and students., Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 2007, p. 21, fig. 2, V 2038 (YCBA)

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Yale University Art Gallery, Painting in England, 1700-1850, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, [exhibition at] Yale University Art Gallery, April 15-June 20, 1965., vol. 1, W. Clowes and sons, New Haven, 1965, pp. 47-8 (v.1), no. 179, pl. 53, ND466 Y35 (YCBA)

Andrew Graham-Dixon, A history of British art, BBC, London, UK, 1996, pp. 121-2, pl. 45, N6761 G72 1996 (YCBA)

Country pursuits, British, American, and French sporting art from the Mellon collections in the Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Charlottesville, 2007, p. 11, ND1383 G7 V57 2007 + OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, p. 75 (v. 1), no. 267, pl. 53, ND466 R68 1964 65 (YCBA) , Also available on Microfiche: Fiche B214 (YCBA)

Constance-Anne Parker, Mr. Stubbs, the Horse Painter, J. A. Allen, London, 1971, p. 88, NJ18 St915 +P37 Oversize (YCBA)

Oliver Millar, The later Georgian pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen., Phaidon, London, 1969, p. xvii (v. 1), ND466 M55 (YCBA) +

Judy Egerton, George Stubbs, painter, catalogue raisonne, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., London, 2007, pp. 50-1, 180-1, no. 40, fig. 4, NJ18 St915 A12 E44 2007 + (YCBA)

Stubbs, an exhibition in honor of Paul Mellon : National Gallery of Art, 4 May-2 June 1985., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1985, no. 27, V 0413 (YCBA)

Judy Egerton, George Stubbs, 1724-1806, [exhibition] Tate Gallery., Tate Publishing, London, 1984, p. 112, no. 77, NJ18 St915 E43 (YCBA) +

Basil Taylor, Stubbs, Phaidon, London, 1975, p. 209, pl. 56, NJ18 St915 T39 1975 (YCBA) +

Malcolm Warner, George Stubbs, his patrons and collectors, Magazine Antiques, vol. 166, no. 6, December 2004, p. 70, pl. XII, V 1629 (YCBA) , Available Online (Orbis).

Basil Taylor, Stubbs, Phaidon, London, 1971, p. 209, pl. 56, NJ18 St915 T39 (YCBA) +

Dorcas Macclintock, Animals observed, a look at animals in art, Scribner, New York Toronto New York, 1993, p. 33, N7660 M25 1993 (YCBA)

Dorcas Macclintock, Queen Charlotte's zebra, 1992, p.5, front cover, V 0143 (YCBA)

Alec Guinness, My name escapes me, the diary of a retiring actor, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1996, p. 171, PN2598 G8 A34 1996 (Bass)

Walter Gilbey, Life of George Stubbs, R.A., Vinton, London, 1898, p. 167, NJ18 St915 G55 (HAAS)

Malcolm Cormack, George Stubbs in the collection of Paul Mellon, a memorial exhibition, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., 1999, p. 39, no. 19, NJ18 St915 G54 1999 (YCBA) , Copy 2 is on Mellopn Shelf

Paul Mellon's legacy, a passion for British art : April 18-July 29, 2007, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., 2007, back cover, V 1735 (YCBA)

Geoffrey Agnew, Yale's 1700 Mellon Pictures, The Times (London), issue no. 59989, Thursday, April 28, 1977, p. 9, Available Online : Times Digital Archive , Also available on Microfilm : Film An T842 (SML)

J. B. Myers, Other, Artforum International, Vol. 21, March 1983, p. 44-49, N1 A814 OVERSIZE (HAAS)

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Marina Warner, The Analyst: Whether Painting Men or Horses, George Stubbs Knew What Made Them Tick, Connoisseur, v. 215,, March 1985, p. 134, N1 C75 + (YCBA)

Christie's sale catalogue : Catalogue of the Valuable Collection of Pictures & Drawings and Engravings of the Early English School of Sir Walter Gilbey : 12 March, 14 March and 15 March 1910, Christie's, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, March 12, 14 and 15, 1910, p. 26, Lot 147, Fiche B51, Fiche# 1408 (YCBA)

Christie's sale catalogue: Catalogue of a Valuable Collection of Sporting Pictures, Drawings, Engravings and Early English Mezzotints, the property of Walter Gibney : 25 May 1891, Christie's, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, May 25, 1891, p. 22, Lot 348, Fiche B51, Fiche # 0574 (YCBA) , Also Avaialble online : Art Sales Cataalogues - Lugt # 50014

Christie's sale catalogue: Catalogue of Early English portraits and Ancient and Modern Pictures and Drawings : 15 June 1923, Christie's, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, June 15, 1923, p. 14, Lot 58, Fiche B51, Fiche# 2127 (YCBA)

Sotheby's sale catalogue : Catalogue of Valuable Pictures by Old Masters of the Italian and Dutch Schools : 16 May 1928, Sotheby's, London, May 16, 1928, p. 33, Lot 130, Film B12, Reel 90 of 155 (YCBA)

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Robin Blake, George Stubbs and the wide creation, animals, people and places in the life of George Stubbs, 1724-1806, Chatto & Windus, London : Chatto & Windus, 2005, 2005, pp. 215, 278, cl. pl. 11, NJ18.St915 B53 2005 (YCBA)

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A Zebra, a tigress and a cheetah : new light on Geirge Stubbs's exotic animal subjects, British Art Journal, Vol. 15, Autumn 2014, pp. 99-100, 101, 107, pl. 1, N6761 B74 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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Christopher Plumb, The Georgian menagerie : exotic animals in eighteenth-century London, I.B. Tauris, London, 2015, p. 186, fig. 8, QL73.G72 L667 2015

Enlightened Princesses : Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn, 2017, p. 481, 512, fig. 29.11, 29.50, NX543 +.E55 2017 Oversize (YCBA)

Melinda Ruth McCurdy, An 18th-Century Star in Stripes,, Verso Huntington Blogs, January 31, 2018, , Available Online

Screens, genealogies of the excessive screen, a Mellon Sawyer seminar at Yale, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, p. 10, V 2776 (YCBA)

Lawrence Trevelyan Weaver, Painter of pedigree, Thomas Weaver of Shrewsbury, Animal Artist of the Agricultural Revolution, London, p. 303, NJ18.W3733 W43 2017 (LC) (YCBA)

Amy Meyers, My Favourite Painting: Amy Meyers,, Country Life, May 13, 2016, Available Online

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William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, p. 362, fig. 198, AM343 .W545 2018 (LC) Oversize (YCBA)

Britain in the world: Highlights from the Yale Center for British Art in honor of Amy Meyers, Yale University Press, New Haven, London, p. 56, N6761 .Y33 2019 (LC) (YCBA)

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