THE BREATHLESS ZOO IS HERE!

My book The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing!

Click image to purchase or read more about the book here 

 

Follow Ravishing Beasts
Beastly Love

What is beastly love, you ask?
Click here to find out more +

Do you like this?

Do you like this website?  Perhaps you'd like to donate a few pennies to help keep it going.  But no pressure.

Curious Collections

Saturday
Jun072008

The Little Museum

hummingbird1.jpgCheck out the beautiful collection of vintage avian taxidermy at www.the-little-museum.com including a large number of Victorian hummingbirds. Gilles Grid purchased the birds - over 50 cases with 100 birds - from various auctions and e-bay.  Many of the birds were old and damaged, and Grid has restored many of them: removing dust, washing the birds with shampoo, remaking legs, feathers, and eyes.  The feathers were given back their luminous sheen with a capillary spray with oil of macadamia.

 

 

Tuesday
Apr152008

The Contemporary Zoological Conservatory

morganbear.jpg
Morgan Mavis and a bear,

This might be just the solution to my recent comments on the plight of museum taxidermy.  If you're a museum thinking of overhauling your collection and getting rid of those nasty bits and pieces of animal lore, send them to Morgan Mavis and the Contemporary Zoological Conservatory.  Located in Toronto, Canada, the collection of vintage and contemporary taxidermy aspires to the giddy heights of Ark meets Cabinet of Wonders. 

"The CZC wants to create an Ark of visual delights and dizzying proportions, a space that makes you question why and how? A place that overwhelms, crowds, confronts fascinates and titillates a person's sense of wonder. We are not a natural history museum you will not find displays of wildlife in their natural habitat. We are documenting the wild collections and stories of Morgan Mavis. You will witness an overwhelming proportion of taxidermied species in her natural environment.”

read more here: http://thetaxidermyconservatory.com/index.php

Thursday
Jan312008

Steve Plant's House

IM000941.jpg

The mix of taxidermy and history in Steve Plant's house in eastern France is among the most aesthetically fabulous compendia I've come across in some time.  The bust, the globes, the stuffed Crowned Crane; it is like stepping back into the days when dilettantes rambled the world in search of visual delights.  Plant's originality and humour recently caught the eye of wildly eccentric Lord Whimsy who maintains a website of pastoral dandyism (his phrase) appropriately titled The Affected Provincial's Almanack.  See more pictures and Whimsy's swooning analysis of Plant's house in Whimsy's journal.  A sampling of what you'll get from the Lord:

"Just look at the wonderful blue plaster against the brown shiny flounder floating over seashells of the most deliciously warm ivory, which create a swirling pattern when grouped together in a procession on the mantle. There's a sensibility at work, but nothing as heavy and methodical as a theory is ever imposed upon us visitors. This isn't calculated, but intuitive--and each tableau is a lovely little world of it's own. The house is full of such moments."

A bit raputuous but spot on.

IM000934.jpg

IM000989.jpg

IM000938.jpg

 

 

Friday
Mar162007

Taxidermy Hall of Fame

Taxidermy_Hall_of_fame.jpgOk, now this has got to take the cake: the Taxidermy Hall of Fame of North Carolina Creation Museum and Antique Tool Museum which advocates unequivocally a "stand without apology for the Genesis account of creation and against evolution."  A little more detail is offered by the North Carolina ECHO's (Exploring Cultural Heritate Online) webpage, "the purpose of the museum is to show the creative handiwork of God through the collection, preservation, and creative exhibition of taxidermy specimens of all kinds from all over the world and a wide array of antique carpentry and construction tools and accessories."  Check out the museum's website: http://www.thecreationmuseum.org/ and make sure to see the surprisingly wry slideshow.

On exhibition at the Taxidermy Hall of Fame is every kind of North Carolina wildlife unprotected by the law (they have plastic replicas of protected species), state and national taxidermy ribbon winners, a fur-bearing trout, numerous trophy mounts, and apparently the oldest rock on earth. What taxidermy, creationism, and antique carpentary tools have in common is pretty much up for grabs. But then, why be dull?

The museum is located in the Christian Book Store on Broad Street in historic Southern Pines.  The image is taken from Dean Jeffrey's review of the museum: read it +

Sunday
Feb042007

Chi Mei Museum in Taiwan

In Tainan City in Taiwan, inside the sprawling Chi Mei industrial compound, inside the company's admistrative building, housed on four floors, is the rather unusual Chi Mei Museum.  The museum is dedicated to showcasing Western paintings, sculpture, musical instruments, and antiques, and - yes - taxidermy. 

Chi_Mei

As Pan Hsin-hsin (the museum's public relations manager) explains, there are already art and culture institutions in Taipei dedicated to ancient Chinese artifact.  Chi Mei Museum tries to offer visitors "something a bit different."  Besides, Pan continues in an interview with Max Woodworth for the Taipei Times in 2002, Chi Mei's director Hsu Wen-lung "feels very strongly about Taiwan and doesnt' want to parrot the things we were always taught growing up about China being the biggest and oldest and best civilisation in the world.  Here, he's trying to show people that other civilizations were doing great things often much earlier than Chinese people."  

The collection contains paintings by Degas and El Greco, a 4 meter tall repica of Michelangel's David, an Egyptian mummy (positioned next to a Han dynasty jade burial suit "to show that Egyptians were trying to preserve the death well before the Chinese"), a collection of Stradivari violins (not on display, but often lent to Taiwanese violinists), and a wild selection of taxidermy including 100 North American ducks intriguingly arranged opposite a collection of chain mail and a particularly unferocious polar bear, who appears to be trying to talk his way out of some indiscretion while his lovely marble ladies focus on looking busy. 

image and text from Max Woodworth's article (August 3rd, 2002) for the Taipei Times: read it +
Saturday
Feb032007

Deyrolles Taxidermy Studio

deyrolles_taxidermy_3.jpg

A Parisien legend for those who know, Deyrolles Taxidermy studio has been located at Rue de Bac, near St Germain-des-Pres for almost two centuries.  On the brink of disappearance, the historic store was bought in 2001 by Prince Louis Albert de Broglie, founder of Le Prince Jardinier, a rather upscale gardening store. He is currently restoring Deyrolles to its former eccentric glory.

image above taken from: Sedulia * image below: Jen Mertens  

Deyrolles2.jpg

Saturday
Nov042006

Francesco Calzolari's Cabinet

Francesco Calzolari was an apothecary in Verona and owned the most famous pharmacy in the city. As an apothecary, Calzolari's collection focussed on therapeutics, especially those believed to have miraculous properties. The cabinet is described by a contemporary physician, Antonio Passieno, as follows:

"a most abundant repository and true treasure of all remarkable medicinal things, in which I observed each one placed in wonderful order in most decorative and elegant compartments and cases. First, [Calzolari] sought exceptional herbs and then the rest from their own distant places and regions, sent to him as gifts from the greatest princes and rulers; here it is pleasing to see not a few whole plants and plant roots, rinds, hardened or liquid saps, gums, flowers, leaves, fruits, and rare seeds and to recognize them as authentic. Also many metals. I omit how many dried terrestrial and aquatic animals I was astounded to find that I had never seen before."

 

Cakzolari.jpg

Image: etching of Francesco Calzolari's collection published in an inventory of his cabinet from 1622. The image's inscription: "Viewers, insert your eyes. Contemplate the wonders of Calzolari's museum and pleasurably serve your mind."

The image of Calzolari's cabinet displays a selection of birds, fish, snakes, and animals including what appears to be a small hammerhead shark, several puffer fish, an oversized hedgehog, starfish, a tortoise head, a deformed mummified human head, a crocodile, bat, flying fish, and a spotted creature with a long tail which might perhaps be ocelot. Most of the creatures would have been dried.

Two catalogues were published detailing the cabinet's contents and the medicinal power and uses of his specimens. The first was published in 1584 by the Doctor Giovanni Battista Olivi (De reconditis et praecipuis collectaneis ab honestissimo et solertissimo Francisco Calceolari Veronensi in Musaeo adservatis) which was dedicated to their mutual friend, Girolamo Mercuriale, who taught at Padua. The catalogue was sparse (50 pages) and unillustrated as Olivi's primary goal was to make evident the vast extent of Calzolari's pharmaceutical items. The catalogue was more or less a medical treatise focussed on the practicle aspects of the museum by highlighting the museum as a medical repository and the links between the museum and the study of pharmacy. In other words, the museum was understood as an instrument for the examination and exploration of the natural world.

In 1622 Benedetto Ceruti and Andrea Chioco published the second catagloue, Museum Calceolarium, which appeared after Calceolari’s death when museum had been improved and transformed by his nephew Francesco Junior. The catalogue was almost 10 times as large, well illustrated, and tended to focus on the imaginative resonance of the natural world: symbolism, hidden truths, and imaginative flights of fancy. As Paula Findlen notes in Possessing Nature: Museums, Collectting and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italty: "the first catalogue had been a product of debates about the proper ingredients in medicines, a topic of great interest in the late sixteenth century. The second catalogue displayed all the hallmarks of the humanist erudition cultivated in the academies of late Renaissance and Baroque Italy. While Olivi explored the possible uses of nature, Ceruti and Chiocco explored the imaginative possibilities of natural phenomena."