The Lion at Home

7:00 AM

Rosa Bonheur, The Lion at Home, 1881
By MELISA CAPAN

From sheep to wild cats, Rosa Bonheur painted her way through Paris in her manly trousers. As a young girl, Bonheur exhibited a rather disruptive and boisterous attitude that led to numerous school suspensions. Alas, these suspensions shoved Bonheur into the world of art and helped her emerge as one of the few female artists of the 19th century. Bonheur’s passion for animals comes from none other than her muse and flame, her MOM. In order to furthermore perfect her anatomical endeavors, Bonheur sought permits that allowed her to observe animals in their silent habitat, aka, the butcher shop. After mastering the numerous domestic animals in Paris, Bonheur moved to the leader of the animal kingdom.

Rosa Bonheur could paint impeccable oxen, as seen in Ploughing in the Nivernais; however, her lions are particularly exotic. In Lion at Home, her newly mastered subject matter appears in the midst of thick foliage and other identifiers of nature. The light source appears to highlight the lions as they lay alongside one another. They appear in an oval formation and their position remains no coincidence. As an avid critique of 19th century society,  Bonheur seems to be outlining the traditional family order. The male and female gaze in different directions, and have their sights on different things. The mother shelters the young cubs with her tail crossed in, while the father lies above them, his tail positioned away. Lion at Home directly coincides with the family mold present in the late 1800s where the male lives as the breadwinner and the female as the homemaker. Bonheur represents the “New Woman” in this time period and utilizes Lion at Home in order to compare the supposed intellectual human to the wild lion. I find her attitude to be refreshing and one particular quote of hers resonated with me, “The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me.” RAWR.

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