the most extraordinary of all thylacine paintings is this 1902 work by
artist Joseph M. Gleeson. It is the only known historical painting
which portrays a female thylacine with an offspring being held within the
pouch. The tail and striped hindquarters of the juvenile held in
the pouch can readily be seen (view
detail). This unique illustration was inspired by a thylacine
family unit (a mother and her three young) that arrived at the US National
Zoo in Washington, DC on 3 September 1902. Two of the young were
females, the third was a male. Gleeson made the preparatory drawings
for the painting within just a few days of the group's arrival. Along
Knight, Joseph Gleeson helped to illustrate Frederic A. Lucas's
book "Animals of the Past".
In a personal e-mail
communication on 7 July 2005, my colleague Dr. Stephen Sleightholme, director
of the International Thylacine Specimen Database Project, adds the following
information regarding the individuals depicted in Gleeson's illustration:
pup (a female) portrayed in the mother's pouch was sick on arrival and
unfortunately died on 12 September 1902. From the growth rate data
that we have collected as an adjunct to work on the ITSD, it appears that
the pups portrayed in Gleeson's painting were between 4 and 5 months old.
Under normal circumstances the mother would not have tolerated a healthy
pup of that age returning to the pouch so she must have been aware that
the youngster was ill. The mother and her three pups are now preserved
within the Smithsonian collection".