1642NE02A.jpg

You have 2 more free articles remaining

It was a previously unknown representation of the species that leapt out from among the assembled statesmen, spaniels, bower groups and spill vases at Bonhams' Staffordshire sale in Knightsbridge on May 19. No-one could recall having seen anything quite like the little tableau of a tiger jumping over the body of a dead woman with a child in its mouth. The subject seems to owe something to the figures commemorating the dreadful demise of Lt. Munrow, whose mauling by a Bengal tiger in 1793 became national news.

A particularly good example of the Death of Munrow made $130,000 (£74,285) in New York in April. The group at Bonhams did not appear to be in that class. It was about half the size at 7in (18cm) long and its macabre quality was accentuated by the fact that old damage had deprived the dead woman of both her legs and one hand, while the hapless child had an arm missing. Nor could it be linked to any particular incident, being simply titled on the plinth Menagerie, which prompted Bonhams' expert Gareth Williams to speculate that it was the product of a small Staffordshire factory, inspired by the Munrow figure but cashing in on the popularity of the travelling menageries that were the subject of some of the most spectacular Staffordshire groups.

However, the Bonhams tiger was in good shape, well modelled and well painted. It had come from a private source and the damage to its victims, though extensive, was honest and unrepaired. This, combined with its rarity, meant that there were six potential buyers on the telephones when it came up for sale and it eventually went to a London Staffordshire dealer at £7500 (plus 19.5per cent premium).