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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Joseph Wolf   3 March 1871

Down, Beckenham, Kent:

March 3, 1871.

Dear Sir,—

You said that you would be so kind as to endeavour to make a sketch for a wood-cut of a monkey’s face when laughing, as the keepers express it. The Barbary ape would have been incomparably the best, but is dead.1 I found, however, in the Zoological Gardens a species that does fairly well, viz. the Cynopithecus niger of Celebes, though it unfortunately has permanent transverse wrinkles on the face.2 It can be easily caught, and Mr. Bartlett3 said could be put in a separate cage to be drawn. There ought to be a drawing of the face when tranquil and the mouth closed; and another of the same size and in the same position, whilst laughing. When Sutton4 the keeper allows this monkey to play with his hair, it chuckles or laughs, and keeps moderately still. The face then becomes a good deal wrinkled, and as far as I could see under disadvantageous circumstances, the skin is especially raised and wrinkled under the lower eyelids. When I asked Mr. Bartlett whether he thought you could possibly draw the laughter of so restless an animal, he answered that “Mr. Wolf has got an eye like photographic paper, it will seize on anything!”

I enclose the size of my page for any figures.

Also a drawing of a leopard which (excepting that the mouth is here more widely opened) shows fairly well the appearance of a cat when savage, and not at all frightened, as I have occasionally though rarely seen.5

I hope to get a photograph of Herring’s picture of a savage horse and another of a pleased one.6 Your willingness to assist me as far as lies in your power has relieved me from much difficulty.—

Dear Sir, Yours very faithfully, Ch. Darwin.


CD had observed the Barbary ape (now the Barbary macaque, Macaca sylvanus) on a visit to the Zoological Gardens in London, in March 1868 (DAR 189: 28, 30).
Cynopithecus niger is now Macaca nigra, the Celebes crested macaque. Two woodcuts of Wolf’s drawings of the animal appear in Expression, p. 136. Wolf’s original drawings are in DAR 53.1: C158–9.
Abraham Dee Bartlett was superintendent of the zoological gardens.
Seth Sutton.
No image of a leopard appears in Expression, but the picture sent by CD to Wolf as an example of how to draw the expression is probably the one now in DAR 53.1: C157 (see Prodger 2009, pp. 147–8). Wolf’s illustrations of cats are in DAR 53.1: C167.
CD probably refers to John Frederick Herring. Herring did many paintings of horses, but the pictures CD mentions have not been identified. There are two drawings by Wolf of horses’ heads depicting these expressions in DAR 53.1: C166.


Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Prodger, Phillip. 2009. Darwin’s camera: art and photography in the theory of evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Asks for a drawing from life of a "laughing monkey" (Cynopithecus niger) for Expression [p. 136].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Wolf
Sent from
Source of text
Palmer 1895, p. 193

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7535,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19