Trained at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Bartlett completed Bohemian Bear Tamer, his first large group, when he was just twenty-two years old. It depicts a well-muscled Gypsy with two bear cubs, one diligently responding to the animated snap of its trainer’s fingers, the other lazily scratching behind its ear. The bears are not aware of their potential brute power; thus, the underlying theme is man’s superiority as the thinking species. Bartlett was inspired not only by itinerant animal shows he had seen around Paris but also by intense contemporary interest in the evolutionary principles of Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and the 1868 discovery of Paleolithic skeletons at Cro-Magnon, in southwestern France.
Signature: [top of base, right]: Paul W. Bartlett. / 87
Marking: [foundry mark, left side of base]: GRUET FONDEUR. / PARIS.
the artist, until 1891; presented by several gentleman to the Metropolitan Museum (Cornelius N. Bliss, Rush C. Hawkins, Thomas Rutter, Charles S. Smith, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Henry O. Havemeyer, L. C. Tiffany, Samuel Putnam Avery, and Andrew Carnegie), 1891