Benoit Advinent and His Menagerie of Snakes and Crocodiles


This lithograph shows lion tamer Benoit Advinent, the Viennese owner of a menagerie that traveled around Europe from about the early 1830s until about the 1860s. Featuring trained lions, hyenas, crocodiles, kangaroos, snakes, and other exotic animals and birds, Menagerie Advinent was one of the best-known traveling menageries in Europe, together with those of Isaac Van Amburgh and Piannet. Benoit, whose name was later Italianized to Benedetto, achieved a degree of notice for his work as early as 1834. It is known that he took the first steps in the family business after 1827, together with his elder brother (originally Louis, later Luigi). The menagerie was already a fixture on the Prater in Vienna in 1828‒29. In 1856 Advinent joined forces with Cocchi, another menagerie owner. The enterprise was eventually handed on or bequeathed by Benoit to his daughter, Virginia. The lithograph portrays Benoit Advinent framed in an oval formed by two snakes, calmly sitting with his right hand in the jaws of a lion, while he shoots his gun with his left hand. Below is pictured a crocodile. The lithograph clearly was intended to underline the variety, rarity, and the extreme dangerousness of the animals Advinet owned. This portrait dates back to the height of his career as animal tamer and follows the standards of the time for official portraiture. One of his roles was indeed to collect wild beasts for Francis I, Emperor of Austria (ruled 1792‒1835). The image represents the ideal figure of an animal trainer as reported by the journals of the day: a great man, capable of subjugating the fiercest beasts with his voice alone.

Last updated: June 1, 2017