Zarafa, a Giraffe which became France’s darling

Faience plates from Wally and Les issletes among other items painted with the famous giraffe Zarafa (c. 1827-9). Zarafa was a female giraffe given to Charles X King of France by Muhammad Ali of Egypt. She was one of the first three giraffes to be seen in Europe for over three centuries and her arrival in France caused great excitement to the crowds. She was presented to the King at the chateau of Saint-Cloud in Paris on 9 July 1827. Zarafa’s arrival in Paris caused a public delirium. Over 100,000 people came to see her, approximately an eighth of the population of Paris at the time. The enthusiasm of the crowd was the reason for displaying giraffe images to a large number of objects, including ceramics and porcelain, as we can see in these plates. Zarafa took up residence in the Jardin des Plantes and remained in Paris until her death in 1845.

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