Royal tiger and cassowaries
Menageries existed in France as early as the Middle Ages and we can already observe in the tapestries of the time, the representation of monkeys, animals much appreciated by the princes. However, it was not until Louis XIV and the royal menagerie of Versailles, conceived as a place of prestige, discovery and wonder, that a substantial "collection" of exotic and wild animals was found in France.
Although Bengal tigers became undisputed stars in the second half of the 18th century, Louis XIV refused the first tiger offered to him in 1702 because of the costs involved in the journey and future maintenance of such an animal. Embarked for many months on a ship of the Compagnie des Indes, fed (it devoured about 200 sheep during the crossing), the tiger was then transported by road from Lorient, headquarters of the Compagnie des Indes, to Versailles.
This oil on paper sketch is based on François Desportes' observation of exotic animals from life. The scene brings together a tiger drawn in pencil, beavers frightened by the fawn, a monkey indifferent to the scene, as well as two brightly colored birds. The presence of a royal egret is perhaps a discreet reference to the famous menagerie of Versailles.