Art Market: Early image of zebra goes on sale

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The Independent Online
ONE of the earliest images of a zebra, painted within 50 years of the animals' arrival in England in 1762, is to be offered at the Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair from tomorrow.

Paintings of zebras are exceedingly rare. Robert Young, a dealer from south-west London, bought the previously unrecorded English portrait at a country auction. He believes the painting was inspired by the pair of zebras that arrived in England from the Cape of Good Hope in 1762: according to accounts, they were a gift to either George III, then Prince of Wales, or his wife.

The female zebra was painted from life by no less an artist than George Stubbs; it is said that he loved his zebra so much, he refused to part with it. It is today in the collection of Paul Mellon, in the United States.

Mr Young believes that the strangely stunted proportions of his zebra suggest that the itinerant artist who probably painted it may not have actually seen the creature in the flesh: 'It may have been described to him as a horse with black and white stripes . . . Actually, this is better than a zebra. There is such charm in its wobbliness.'

Mr Young believes that it dates from between 1790 and 1830; the stylised tree and naive landscape, he added, are typical of West Country Naive art.

The painting, which had been 'knee deep in grime' when he first saw it, is in superlative condition.

As heritage lobbyists continue to campaign against the sale of works from public institutions - spurred on by the Royal Holloway College selling off its Turner and Gainsborough - the artists Maggi Hambling and Patrick Heron are lending their support to a group concerned about the future of another public art collection.

They hope to reverse a decision by Leicestershire's education committee to charge schools for the loan of an art collection that has for decades been circulated annually to each of the county's 500 schools for free.

Some 700 works by Augustus John, Henry Moore and John Hoyland make up a collection of British artists dating from the 1930s to the present.

One campaigner, Reg Cartwright, said: 'Divorced from its educational roots and levying a charge means effectively that the collection will be stored away in the vaults.'

However, John Mathias, assistant director of the Leicestershire Museums Arts and Records Service, described the charge per work, at pounds 8 a term, as 'small'.

(Photograph omitted)