Due to a private event, if you are visiting Waddesdon between 17-24 Aug, there will be some disruption in the gardens on the North & South Fronts, Parterre & Aviary. Ticket holders will be contacted directly.

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Gustave Moreau: The Fables online exhibition

The Rat and the Elephant, 1882

A rat watched an elephant pass by - carrying a sultana and her household - and wondered why everyone expressed such astonishment at the sight. A rat is no less important than an elephant, he said. But the cat jumped out of its cage and let him see in an instant that a rat is not an elephant.

Antony Roux recognised that this watercolour paid homage to India: ‘it would be impossible to feel and render the warm nature of those lands more faithfully.’ Although the artist never travelled beyond Italy, his research into Indian art was deep and varied. His study of Indian flora was the starting point for the oversized plants that amplify the elephant’s height as it walks forward, fixing the viewer with a single visible eye.

The elephant is based on one of Moreau’s many studies of the Indian elephant named Bangkok in the Paris zoo, the Jardin des Plantes. Roux appreciated the ‘science’ as well as the ‘spirit’ in Moreau’s depictions of elephants.