The 'Inventaire des tableaux du roy rédigé entre 1709 et 1710' by Nicolas Bailly (1659 - 1736) lists the royal Ménagerie paintings that decorated the octagonal room. There are a number of missing paintings from the ménagerie and it is possible that our painting represents the same animal as 'une espèce de chevreuil' or the 'gazelle'. While we know the sizes of these missing paintings (which rules out our painting as a Ménagerie decoration) it is clearly the same animal from the king's collection. The animals from the Ménagerie are all described at some length in Claude Perrault's 'Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des animaux', Paris, 1671 (as well as their internal organs after dissection). Furthermore the painting is in its original Louis XIV frame which would point to a French provenance of some importance.
We are grateful to Vincent Delieuvin for his assistance in identifying this painting as he continues his work on Nicasius Bernaerts.
The Blackbuck or Indian Antelope is found in India and Nepal and it is possible that Louis XIV's connections with the Eastern hemisphere meant that the Blackbuck found its way back as part of the trade negotiations between France and the East. Most probably through the French East India company, which Louis had initially helped to finance. The outstanding dramatic image of a Blackbuck by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (Staatlisches Museum Schwerin) painted nearly 70 years later is also possibly evidence of a history of the same animal in successive kings' ménageries.
Private Collection, UK