Rare Antique Staffordshire Figure. The Lion Tamer
Isaac A. Van Amburgh (1808 - 1865) was a famous animal trainer (or "lion tamer") in the early 19th century. He often performed with lions, tigers and a panther. His act was a popular entertainment in theatres and in the circus.
Van Amburgh was born in America and made his name there with the “Titus Menagerie” before coming to England in 1838. His performance at Drury Lane entranced Queen Victoria so much that she attended three performances in two weeks and even wrote about it in her diaries.
In 1839 The Duke of Wellington commissioned Landseer to paint his portrait - numerous engravings of him appeared showing various dramatic episodes with beasts, under titles such as “The Brute Tamer of Pompeii.” This figurine would have been adapted from one of these engravings, probably one published in the London Illustrated News.
Van Amburgh toured England on several occasions and was a sensation wherever he went - these figures would have been popular souvenirs with Victorian audiences.
These Staffordshire figures, however, are now harder to find - and this one is in excellent condition.
The model shows Amburgh putting his hand into a mouth of a lion; which was a show-stopping part of his act. The figure has no damages or losses to the original paintwork - there is a little firing crack (done in the manufacture) on the back of Amburgh’s leg as photographed. There are also tiny losses to the bocage on the ground in front of the figure - but quite minor.
This model dates to the 1840s or early 1850s.
It is 8 ¾ inches in height and with a overall width of 6 ½ inches.
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