Rare Jungle Book painting to be exhibited at Kipling’s home

A rare watercolor depicting the aftermath of a pivotal moment in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is set to be exhibited at the author’s country home following conservation efforts. The artwork, titled “The Return of the Buffalo Herd,” is part of a series of 16 paintings crafted by twin brothers Edward and Charles Detmold, who were commissioned at the age of 18 to illustrate Kipling’s beloved story. Only four of these paintings have survived.

The watercolor portrays Rama, the formidable herd bull, gazing back at the plain after Mowgli, the story’s protagonist, utilized a buffalo herd to instigate a stampede, ultimately defeating the antagonist, the murderous tiger Shere Khan. Kipling vividly described the dramatic moment in his writing, emphasizing the unstoppable charge of the buffalo herd against which no tiger could withstand.

Dated 1901 and signed with the monogram “EJD” for Edward Julius Detmold, the watercolor reflects the artistic talents of the twins, who faced personal challenges despite their professional success. Both brothers tragically took their own lives, with Charles in 1908 and Edward in 1957.

Hannah Miles, collections and house manager at Bateman’s, Kipling’s house now owned by the National Trust, drew parallels between the Detmold twins and Mowgli, both navigating troubled circumstances between two worlds. Displaying the illustration alongside a copy of the book featuring all the twins’ original pictures adds poignancy to the setting.

Of the four surviving watercolors, two are in private collections, and the third is housed at the Natural History Museum. The careful conservation of “The Return of the Buffalo Herd” by specialist conservator Louise Drover involved humidification, repairs with Japanese tissue, and tonal adjustments using pigment watercolors and chalks.

The National Trust expressed gratitude for the acquisition, made possible through a fund established by the late philanthropist Simon Sainsbury, and looks forward to providing fans a rare opportunity to explore the story’s darker origins as it existed in Kipling’s era.

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