Jean-Baptiste Oudry, ‘The Wolf and the Lamb’, Christie's Old Masters

Oudry is the most celebrated illustrator of the Fables of La Fontaine, having made hundreds of drawings of them, which were the basis of prints published between 1755 and 1760, and several independent series of paintings. The present picture illustrates Fable X, 'The Wolf and the Lamb', in which a lamb, slaking his thirst in a river, is confronted by an angry wolf, who accuses him of trespassing. The smart little lamb calmly refutes the wolf's accusations point by point, until the wolf drags him into the woods and eats him. 'Might is right,' observes La Fontaine. 'The verdict goes to the strong.'

Several versions of this composition are known, including an overdoor commissioned in 1747 for the Grand Cabinet du Dauphin at Versailles (in situ), and a canvas in the museum in Metz that is signed and dated 1751; other versions are recorded or passed through eighteenth-century sales.

Private collection, Limoges.

About Jean-Baptiste Oudry