This majestic trapped lion illustrating French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine’s retelling of Aesop’s fable is attributed to Flemish artist Frans Snyders (1579-1657). In the 19th century, it belonged to the wealthy Spanish financier and collector Marquis of Remisa.
Attributed to Frans Snyders (1579-1657) and workshop, Fábula del león y el ratón (The Fable of the Lion and the Rat), oil on canvas, 130 x 180 cm/51.18 x 70.86 in.
“Patience and length of time may sever/What strength and empty wrath could never”: that is the moral of Jean de La Fontaine’s fable about a lion that gets caught in hunters’ nets and is rescued by a rat gnawing through the ropes with its teeth. The Greek author Aesop wrote the fable between the late seventh and early sixth century BCE. The original text, not La Fontaine’s, which was written slightly later than the painting, is what inspired Snyders to depict the mighty lion struggling and roaring with rage and despair. He lavished particular attention on the coat, claws and mouth. Both the subject and style are characteristic of Snyders, the Flemish master to whom the Madrid auction house attributes this work, as well as to his workshop. Similar versions are in the Château de Canisy in Normandy and Chequers, England, the British Prime Minister’s country house. Snyders and Rubens painted them together. This one has been in the same family for generations. Before then, it appeared in the inventory of Gaspar de Remisa’s collection drawn up by painter and writer Ceferino Araujo (1824-1897) in 1846. Gaspar de Remisa Miarons, Marquis of Remisa (1784-1847), was a prominent Spanish banker and collector, an owner of Andalusia’s Rio Tinto mines, director-general of the Royal Treasury, a shareholder in the newspaper El Corresponsal, which he co-founded in 1839, and senator for the province of Orense from 1845 until his death two years later. His family palace in Madrid’s Carabanchel district housed his splendid art collection, including paintings by Velázquez, Murillo and Zurbaran.