The Desert, Sir Edwin Landseer, 1802 - 1873, © Manchester City Galleries
Sir Edwin Landseer 1802-1873
Oil on canvas
According to one contemporary account,
Landseer used a dead lion from London Zoo
as a model for this mysterious painting.
Some ten years later he sculpted four large lions,
again using a dead beast from the Zoo,
to be cast in bronze for Trafalgar Square.
Landseer enjoyed drawing animals from childhood
and later studied dissection and anatomy.
He was a favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert,
who bought and commissioned many works.
His accurately observed animal subjects,
often invested with human characteristics,
also made his work popular with the middle class.
This painting was a donation from Sir William Agnew,
a son of the Manchester art dealer Thomas Agnew,
whose influential firm was founded in 1817.
It seems to have been the basis for the lion design
which first appeared on Lyle's syrup tins in 1885
and is still used today.
Gift of Sir William Agnew 1902.2