Manchester Art Gallery

A Cheetah and a Stag with Two Indian Attendants

Object description

A painting inspired by an incident that took place in 1764, when a cheetah brought to England from India was pitched against a stag in a hunting demonstration at Windsor. The cheetah, seen in profile to the right, wears a collar, a red hood and a red belt harness tied around its abdomen; kneeling to the far side of the cheetah is one of the male figures, wearing a white robe with a single button at the neck and a turban of spotted white fabric, restraining the animal by its belt; he turns his head to the right, looking towards where the second male figure is gesturing. This figure, also with a white robe, worn over a pair of red trousers, and red shoes with extravagantly curled-up toes, has a plain white turban. He looks in the direction of the cheetah and gestures with both hands towards a stag standing behind him on the right. The stag turns its head towards the cheetah; both animals stare at one another. There is an anatomical disparity between the stag’s body, which is based on that of a British red deer, and its antlers, painted from those of an Indian sambar. The scene is depicted on a plateau within an imaginary landscape; to the left are dramatic cliffs atop a grassy slope, to the right, below the stag, is a river, which draws the eye into a landscape of woodland and undulating hills; the sky shows glimpses of blue through a bank of stormy clouds.

Display label

Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians about 1765 George Stubbs 1724-1806 Oil on canvas This painting commemorates the gift of a cheetah to George III from George Pigot, Governor of Madras. The King gave it to his uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who was the Ranger at Windsor and kept a menagerie. At 12 o'clock on Saturday 30 June 1764 the Duke staged an experiment in Windsor Great Park. In order to see how cheetahs attack their prey he placed it within a netted enclosure containing a stag. Unexpectedly, the cheetah was tossed into the air and fled into some woods where it killed a fallow deer. Stubbs' accurate painting of the cheetah and his sensitive portraits of its handlers seem to have been based on first-hand observations. The stag, however, is a curious hybrid and a later Pigot had it painted out in 1882; the overpaint was removed in 1960. The landscape is unrelated to Windsor Park: its exotic features conform to fashionable taste. Purchased with with the assistance of the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the National Art Collections Fund (Eugene Cremetti Fund) 1970.34