"Polito's grand and pleasing assemblage of most rare and beautiful living birds and beasts, from the remotest parts of the known world…’ Nottingham Journal, 28th September 1805, quoted from E. H. Bostock in Menageries, Circuses and Theatres, New York, 1928, pp. 7-9.
Polito’s is one of the earliest travelling menageries of wild and exotic animals. Stephen, also known by Stephano, Stephani and Stephanus Polito, born in Italy around 1763-64, was a menagerie owner which he toured throughout England in the late 18th century. By 1810 Polito was managing the Exeter Change menagerie, located on the second floor of an arcade in the Strand, and renamed it the Royal Menagerie.
In the Spring of 1814, Elizabeth Chivers of Bath, who kept a diary, went on a family trip to London and on the twelfth day visited the Menagerie:
“We next bent our course to Mr Alderman Birches where we ate a little of his delightful pastry then proceeded to Exeter Change in the Strand to see the finest collection of wild Beasts in the Kingdom, which is kept and managed by Polito [Polito's Royal Menagerie]. The great variety of animals we here saw quite astonished us, there is an Elephant, Rhinoceros and camel, a Lyon and a number of most beautiful Leopards, several Tygers, Baboon, and Monkeys and a vast many more too numerous for me to notice. In another apartment we saw a collection of most beautiful birds natives of many different countries.”1
Polito died in April 1814 but his original travelling menagerie continued operating under his name until 1835 or 1836, when, according to Bostock, it was lost at sea on its way to Ireland, which perhaps may have prompted production of the Staffordshire model. It has been suggested Mrs. Polito is the female figure at the doorway in the model. Slightly varying models of the Polito’s menagerie were produced, examples of which were in the collections of Dorothy Hirshon, sold, Sotheby’s New York, 26 September 1998, lot 233; the Estate of S. Carter Burden, sold, Sotheby’s New York, 26 October 2002, lot 1531; and Josephine and Walter Buhl Ford II, sold, Sotheby’s New York, 6 October 2006, lot 227.
 Museum of London collection.