The Resting-Place of the Deer by Bonheur, 1886
The Resting-Place of Deer by Rosa Bonheur, engraved by Charles George Lewis, 1886.
Deer is the name given to a member of the family Cervidae. All male species of deer, except one, grow and shed antlers annually. They are wide spread throughout the world, Australia and Antarctica are the only continents devoid of indigenous species. Deer are also capable of living in a variety of biomes from tropical rain-forests to arctic tundra. Size and weight depends on the species but in general all deer have compact bodies and long, powerful legs. Antlers grow as a spongy tissue covered in velvet. The tissue calcifies before mating season and the velvet is rubbed off. After mating season the antlers fall off and are then regrown. Each species has its own antler structure. Another shared characteristic among deer is the tapetum lucidum, which is a layer of tissue in the eye that reflects light back to the retina. This improves night vision because it increases the amount of light available to the eye's photoreceptors. It is the tapetum lucidum that causes the eye to glow which is called eye-shine.
The deer in this print are most likely roe deer, judging from their size and the male's antlers. Roe deer are a reddish or grayish brown Eurasian species of deer, wide spread throughout western Europe. They are relatively small with a body length of three to four feet and a shoulder height of two to two and a half feet. While mostly reddish-brown in color each sex has a white rump patch, kidney shaped on the male and heart shaped on the female. The male's antler's are short and erect and unlike most deer begin to regrow almost immediately after shedding. Roe deer are crepuscular, meaning they're active at twilight and they prefer living in wooded areas. A doe typically gives birth to fraternal twins in June.
Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) was the premier animalier of the nineteenth century. Her work focused almost exclusively on animal subjects. She learned to paint from her father, Oscar-Raymond Bonheur, who was an artist and adherent of Saint-Simonianism. In addition to copying plaster casts and the masters at the Louvre, her skill was also developed from drawing from life and carefully studying the anatomy of her subjects. Bonheur's first major work was Ploughing in the Nivernais, which was a government commission exhibited in 1849. This was followed by Horse Fair (1853-55), which was eight feet high by sixteen feet wide. Horse Fair was her most famous work and it brought her international fame when it was exhibited at the Salon in 1853. Her work was exhibited at private galleries and the Salon, throughout her career. Ernest Gambart further spread her popularity by printing engravings of her paintings after purchasing the necessary copy-rights. He brought Bonheur to England in 1855, where she met Queen Victoria and produced a number of sketches for some of her later works.
- Naomi Bean