Inscribed on verso in graphite at upper left, "[Fourni?] par Mr. Gérôme / pour le [?] 13 septembre 99"; inscribed on bottom in graphite, "la lionne et ses petits pour l'esquisse du tableau 6 [6 enclosed in circle]"; inscribed on verso, in graphite, at lower right "dessin de Gerome"
Jean-Léon Gérôme made this loose sketch in black chalk in preparation for a painting entitled "Lioness and her Cubs," currently in a private collection (Gerald M. Ackerman, The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, with a Catalogue Raisonné. London, 1986, no. 536, pp. 159, 300-301, repr.). Only the drawings from his early years were minutely finished, while the late drawings, such as this example, were simple and contained only the most basic forms. There are faint pin pricks at all four corners, suggesting that Gérôme hung the sheet in his studio while he worked on the painting. As in the finished composition, the mother lioness leads her two cubs in search of food or water. Her mouth is agape, revealing a hint of her ferocious incisors. The drawing and subsequent painting belong to a series of works created at the twilight of Gérôme's career between 1899-1904. During this period he was fascinated with lions and lionesses, as well as camels and tigers, often depicting them in their natural habitat (Ackerman, The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, nos. 528-536, pp. 297-299). He would have observed these animals from life during several trips to North Africa in the 1850s and 1860s.
McCrindle, Joseph F., former owner.