WOLF, Joseph (1820-1899)
Felis Euptilura [Leopard 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 19 1/16 inches.
A very fine image from 'the best animal painter who ever lived' (Sir Edwin Landseer).
The `Leopard Cat Felis bengalensis ... [is one] of the most widely distributed Asian small cats ranging from North India and Nepal across China as far as the Amur River basin in Siberia and south through Indo-China, Malaysia, Indonesia to the Philippine Islands. The leopard cat prefers forested areas but can adapt to a wide variety of habitats and is even to be found near human settlements. It is an excellent swimmer and has colonised many small offshore islands. Prey includes fish as well as birds, reptiles, rodents, hares and young deer. There is considerable variation in appearance depending on locality but the typical form has a coat of tawny or buff fur strikingly marked with large dark brown spots. Animals from the colder areas in the north of the range are larger, thicker haired, greyish in colour with rather indistinct rufous markings, while examples from the Indonesian islands are small, short haired and marked with numerous small spots. Overall length between 20 and 37 inches; weight from 6 to 15lb... Shown here are two leopard cats from Siberia and northern China.' ( The Natural History Museum Library Big Cats A selection of magnificent illustrations by Joseph Wolf London: 1991, pp.18-22).
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.