This is my favourite painting in the Ashmolean Museum. I saw it again and realised why I like it so much. It’s because the bears look really cheesed off:
I know I shouldn’t like to see the poor bears looking so fed up, but their facial expressions are just so good. They really convey how tired the bears are and how upset they must have been to have had to leave their nice cosy dens and venture outside the forest. It makes an already interesting painting just that bit more engaging – that and the human faces that Piero di Cosimo drew onto some of the animals some years after he originally painted them. Apparently, he saw the forest fire as a symbol of regeneration, rather than of destruction and lived on a diet of hard boiled eggs.