Hush my darling, don’t fear my darling, the lion sleeps tonight

paul meyerheim - jealous lioness 1885-90When I get together with ‘the girls’, we spend a day at the art gallery and inevitably lunch, brunch and/or coffee break together as part of our wonderful cultural day out experience. We have a rule which stipulates that the post-gallery gathering is a time where we each declare and describe the “one and only” item we would like to keep or own, from that exhibition.  After one such occasion, the majority agreed on this particular painting for either its vivaciousness, liveliness, or its lionness qualities. However, you could have heard a pin drop when I said, it was because I liked the green parrots sitting on the female lion-tamers shoulder. This was shortly followed by a chorus of “what parrot…where?

The work in question is Paul Meyerheim’s “Jealous Lioness,” oil on canvas (c.885-1890) from the collection of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, acquired in 1903.

Berlin artist and graphic artist Paul Friedrich Meyerheim (13 July 1842 – 14 September 1915) is best known for his paintings of animals. As a young child he was fascinated with the Berlin Zoological Gardens and frequented it so often that he was  befriended by its founder, Martin Lichtenstein. Because of this friendship, Lichenstein allowed the young Meyerheim into areas of the zoo that were normally closed to the public. It was through this experience, combined with  his father’s art tuition which led Meyerheim to specialize in animal painting.

  • For three years, (1857-1860) he attended the Prussian Academy of Arts.
  • Later, he made several study trips to Switzerland, Belgium and The Netherlands and spent a year in Paris, France.
  • In 1883 he established an animal painting class at the Academy and in 1887 he was appointed an Academy Professor and became a member of the Academic Senate.

Meyerheim was a friend of the Borsig family and produced many illustrations and designs for the Borsig-Werke, which manufactured railroad locomotives. A major attraction at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition in 1912 was a series of seven huge images, painted on copper, that Meyerheim  created during 1873-1876.

These were called “Lebensgeschichte einer Lokomotive” (Life History of a Locomotive) and were originally intended for the garden loggia at the Borsig home in Alt-Moabit.

  • Some of these panels are now in the possession of the Märkisches Museum in Berlin-Mitte and the Deutschen Technikmuseum.


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