Jacques-Laurent Agasse was born to an influential Huguenot family in Geneva. He spent much of his early childhood on their country estate at Crévin, where he grew up amongst dogs, horses and other animals. He studied art at the École du Colibri in Geneva before moving on to Paris, where he attended veterinary school to advance his knowledge of animal anatomy. His art education continued under Jacques-Louis David, the preeminent Neoclassical painter of his era.
After meeting in Geneva, George Pitt (Lord Rivers) invited Agasse to England, where he spent most of career. According to the German periodical Tübinger Morgenblatt, Pitt “asked him to paint his favourite dog (greyhound) which had died. The Englishman was so pleased with his work that he took the painter to England with him.” Introduced to wealthy landowners, he painted innumerable horses and dogs, but also more exotic animals that he observed at a menagerie at Exeter Change in the Strand.
Clouded Leopards is set against the backdrop of a darkened jungle. It emanates the suspense of a surprise encounter in the wild, the leftmost leopard ominously returning the spectator’s gaze. The canvas is inscribed “Sumatra” in the lower left corner. Agasse also painted zebras, vicunas, guanacos and giraffes.