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 The First Phalanx -- Mandrills (1990)

Acrylic on illustration board
20" x 30"
 Few animals are as striking as an old male mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx), his subtly vermiculated dark body contrasting handsomely with blazing orange shoulder patches. The male's huge size (in this no other monkey exceeds him), powerful build and intimidating canines suggest a brutal machismo that is amplified by a gaudy face, itself an overt phallic symbol. Mandrills have a fairly restricted distribution in Gabon, Rio Muni, Congo (that's the original Congo) and Cameroon southeast of the Sanaga River, which divides their range from that of their close relative, the drill (M. leucophaeus). They normally travel in groups of a dozen or so females and young which are led by a single adult male, and these "harems" function within a larger community of other small parties and bachelor males. Occasionally a number of these groups will merge into a large temporary herd led by a coalition of alpha males. Here four old males display threats of varying intensity toward an unseen adversary. The Central African setting is occupied as well by female mandrills, a running frog (Kassina sp.), a Harris rose beetle (Megalorrhina harrisii), a swallowtail butterfly (Papilio sp.), and a millipede (Spirobolus sp.). When I painted this I didn't take into account that this "herding" of mandrills only seems to happen during the dry season, a time of year when the kind of blossoming I depicted doesn't really happen . . . but it looks nice, anyway.