WOLF, Joseph (1820-1899)
Felis Pajeros [Pampas Cat]
[London: Daniel Giraud Elliot for the subscribers, circa 1878-1883]. Hand-coloured lithograph by J.Smit after Joseph Wolf, printed by M. & N.Hanhart. Sheet size: 23 5/8 x 18 7/8 inches.
A very fine image from 'the best animal painter who ever lived' (Sir Edwin Landseer).
The `Pampas Cat Felis colocolo ... inhabits open grasslands, scrub and mountainous areas in South America from Ecuador south and east to Chile and Patagonia. The scientific name pajeros used by Elliot comes from the Spanish for straw because these cats often live in reed-beds. Favoured prey are small mammals such as cavies, but also birds and reptiles. Roughly the same size as a domestic cat: length from 30 to 40" overall; weight from 7-13lb. Pampas cats have long lax fur, the coat is predominantly grey shading to red and sometimes spotted, particularly on the undersides; markings and coat length vary according to locality. The individual in the foreground of the painting with russet spots on the underparts is from Chile, while that standing behind has darker spotting and is the form found in Ecuador' ( The Natural History Museum Library Big Cats A selection of magnificent illustrations by Joseph Wolf London: 1991, p.30).
A very fine image from Elliot's magnificent work A Monograph of the Felidae or Family of Cats (London: 1878-1883) which described and pictured all the species of cats then known, and is still the most beautiful work on the subject. The work was prompted by a perceived need to resolve the confusion that had built up around the naming of the various species of Felidae , particularly amongst the smaller cats. Wolf worked from specimens provided by Elliot, who visited all the great museums and zoological societies on both sides of the Atlantic. This allowed Elliot to make a comparative study of skeletons and skins and reduce the number of apparently separate species by nearly a third.
Joseph Wolf served an apprenticeship with a Koblentz firm of lithographers, and spent some time working in Leiden and Darmstadt, before moving to London in 1848. The quality of his images was recognized immediately and he was rarely without work, producing natural history pictures of the highest quality for the Zoological Society of London, Henry Dresser, George Gray and John Gould, amongst many others. Wolf's work for Elliot marks the high-point of his illustrative work and his images of the cats are considered by many to be his masterpieces.
Cf. Nissen ZBI 1279; cf. Wood p.332.