Bohemian Bear Tamer

  • Paul Wayland Bartlett, Bohemian Bear Tamer, modeled 1887, bronze, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mary O. Bowditch, 1961.4.1

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Paul Wayland Bartlett began his career as a sculptor of animals, as seen in this scene of a young man coaxing a bear cub to stand on its hind legs. The success of the original plaster model of this work allowed Bartlett to begin casting his sculptures in bronze, and established his reputation in America. The cub's clumsy attempt at standing, with his paws held out for balance, serves as a contrast to the tamer's confident stance. The image of the young man is likely based on European Gypsy "bear leaders," who trained bears to perform for audiences as early as the medieval period. While this sculpture seems to depict bear taming as carefree, the figure clutches a whip behind his back, hinting at the less playful reality of the animal trainers Bartlett depicted.
Bohemian Bear Tamer
modeled 1887
17 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 10 3/4 in. (44.6 x 21.6 x 27.3 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Mary O. Bowditch

Mediums Description
  • Performing arts – circus – animal tamer
  • Figure male – nude
Object Number
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