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OIL PAINTING | King John & Polar Bear



OIL PAINTING | King John & Polar Bear


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Product Details

King John & Polar Bear

Original, oil on board, signed on reverse

Painting Size: 30 x 21 cm (12 x 8" )

Frame options:

Black with mount - frame size: 42 cm x 33 cm

Oak with mount - frame size: 42 cm x 33 cm

White with mount - frame size: 42 cm x 33 cm

Read more about our Framing Workshop here

The Story

The Shop Floor Project has commissioned British artist Raphael Balme to create a series of oil paintings which celebrate historical figures with their exotic pets and, in the case of Virginia Woolf, their alter egos. The collection includes; Frida Kahlo & Fawn, King John & Polar bear, Empress Josephine & Orangutan plus Mozart & Starling among others... 

King John's Polar Bear 

During the reign of King John (1199-1216) a host of exotic animals began to arrive at the Tower of London. These gifts from foreign nobles created what became known as The Royal Menagerie. Over the years the animals included: an African elephant from Louis IX of France - arriving at the Tower by boat, a cannonball-throwing baboon and a pair of ostriches which, like most of the creatures at the Menagerie, were the first of their kind ever to be seen in Britain. The King of Norway gifted a polar bear which was said to be seen, taken on a lead, down to the Thames to hunt for fish.


A new collection of original paintings by British artist Raphael Balme. A graduate of Chelsea College of Arts, Balme’s work plays with colour and pattern. Drawing on folk art motifs, she makes dream-like landscapes and portraits featuring fictional characters from duchesses to clowns. This latest collection is inspired by Balme's recent work on the frescoes in the old chapel at Villa Pozzolo in Tuscany. 

A picture of the artist's studio (taken by her good friend and fellow artist Mark Hearld)

Balme takes inspiration from many places, on her studio wall is a picture of this old chest, painted with mermaids and flowers.

Raphael recently worked on a new fresco at an ancient villa in Tuscany. "Villa Pozzolo was bought as a wreck by Niko Von Glasow, a film director and an old friend. The family are eccentric, daring entrepreneurs, connecting people, taking risks, with friends all over the world, when they invited me to go and be involved in painting the fresco in the chapel on the estate I jumped at it, although its’s an on going project. The house is completely magical and inspiring - a lot of my new work, particularly colours,  is directly influenced by time spent there. "

Balme's home and studio is filled with inspiration for her paintings...