Monday
Nov292010

Edward Hart (1847 - 1928)

 

Edward Hart was born on July 30th, 1847. His father, William Hart, was a taxidermist in Christchurch. He opened his first taxidermy shop in Bridge Street in 1834. The shop closed perhaps due to William's other manufactoring buisness: making watch chains. William Hart eventually opened a second taxidermy store in the 1850s which seems to have inspired his son's own fascination with taxidermy:

"In 1857 I shot three of three birds and afterwards mounted them, little thinking at the time that this attempt at taxidermy was to be the beginning of making my collection, which has been my fortune to accumulate principally from Hampshire." Father and son eventually went into business together which was advertised as "William Hart & Son, Preservers of Birds and Beasts."

Edward Hart continued accumulating his own collection and in 1866 he opened a museum in The Bow House (now the Portman Building Society) to display his pieces. The total length of the bird cases was 270 feet (82 metres) with a height of 10 feet (3 metres). The mammal cases extended another 30 feet (9 metres). The museum continued to increase in size, including upwards of 420 cases, containing 1350 specimens of birds, 2000 birds' egss, 1000 fossils and flint implements, moths and butterflies, and various horns, skulls, and antlers. The mammals included squirrels, rats, shrews, stoats and dormice. Hart arranged his birds and animals in naturalistic settings including painted backgrounds, rocks, and foliage. Hart also created several anthropomorphic tableaux which he termed "Grotesque Groups" including Prize Fight, Leap Frog and The Barber.

 

prize-fight.jpg

Prize Fight was first displayed by Hart at the Great Exhibition. Consisting of five cases, the Fight shows two squirrels in various stages of a bozing match until the squirrel on the right is knocked out. The piece was bought by Lord and Lady Bangor and is still displayed in Castle Ward, Country Down, Northern Ireland, which has since been taken over by the National Trust.

hart_boxing.jpgMost specimens in his museums were collected by Hart himself (he kept notebooks detailing where he found each specimen) although others were donated by local naturalists including Mr. T. Pike.

 

For further comments on Hart's conservationist tendencies (or lack of) and the legacy of his collection, go to the Hampshire County Council's website.



Tuesday
Jul292008

Suicidal Squirrel

squirrel-suicide.jpg

The renegade Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is known for his tragiocomedy.  His vision of a post-suicide squirrel strangely titled bidibidobidiboo (1996) is certainly no exception.  His other button-pushing taxidermic works include a donkey heaved up in the air by the weight of his cart and what appears to be a dead (or just exhausted) colt suspended from the ceiling. Cattelan's work is by no means limited to taxidermy.  In fact, he roams freely between sculptural media, whatever seems right for the purpose.  As Jeff Rian highlights, Cattelan is "an improviser of contexts, a manipulator of places and events, a Houdini-like escape artists ... at once a fool, entertainer, joker, magician, provocateur, and stuntman."

Image taken from the front cover of the October 1996 issue of Flash Art Internation; Rian quoted from the same issue.
Wednesday
Dec262007

Hermann Ploucquet & the Great Exhibition

A declaration of love between two weasels, a dormouse duel, hedgehogs ice-skating, and six kitten serenading a piglet underneath her window were just a few of the miniature dramas that charmed Victorian audiences at the Great Exhibition of renecke.jpg
Ploucquet's series of Reinecke's devious adventures.
1851 in London. The amusing scenes were created by Hermann Ploucquet, taxidermist at the Royal Museum in Stuttgart, and displayed in the Württemberg Court.

Plouquet’s comical creatures were one of the highlights of the Exhibition. Newspapers regularly ran delighted descriptions of the amusing scenes. “We have on more than one occasion – and we have not by any means been singular in that respect,” The Morning Chronicle writes on August 12th, 1851, “directed the attention of visitors to the Exhibition to the consummately clever collection of stuffed animals, or miniature representations of animals, engaged in performing human occupations, and seemingly influenced by human motives, hopes, and fears.”  The stall at which Ploucquet’s creations were exhibited was “one of the most crowded points of the Exhibition” perpetually surrounded by a “merry crowd.”

Truly, Ploucquet had delighted English audiences with his novel creations: “nothing can be more genuine than the admiration, or more hearty than the laughter, with which the civilised animals are greeted. Ploucquet’s most popular were a series of six tableaux illustrating the German fable Reinecke the Fox based on Wilhelm von Kaulbach’s etchings of Goethe’s version of the medieval trickster tale.  Reminiscing several decades after the Exhibition, J. A. Froude noted that the appeal of Ploucquet’s vision of Reineke was sufficient to incite a craze for the neglected fable: "Everybody began to talk of Reineke."

stoatdentist.jpg
An etching from David Bogue's catalogue of Ploucquet's works.
Ploucquet’s technical facility and imaginative talents achieved such celebrity that a book of engravings with short accompanying text by David Brogue was published before the Exhibition had ended so that “one of the cleverest and most popular displays in the GREAT EXHIBTION … may be long perpetuated.” Indeed, as the preface claims “everyone from Her Majesty the Queen down to the charity boys, hasten to see the Stuffed Animals.” At a price of 3s 6d or 6s with the plates coloured, the publication was equally as admired as the original creations: “To whom, old or young, will it not be welcome?” The Examiner exclaimed over the clever etchings.  “Who has not, young or old, seen, laughed at, revisted, and brought away pleasant recollections of the Stuffed Animals from Zollverein."

The theatricality of Plocquet's works, their phenomenal popularity, and hearty amusement they inspired might suggest that Plouquet was more showman than serious naturalist and his creatures best categorized as popular entertainment.  Yet, as delightful as the anthropomorphic tableaux were, they were not mere fancy to English audiences.  In no way were the theatrical poses deemed to mask the creatures’ innate characteristics.  In fact, it was quite precisely Ploucquet’s achievement of this double identity – human behaviours and animal expressions – that earned him such praise: “[t]he animals borrow exaggerated expression, without losing their brute looks; and the rationale of the irresistible risibility which they excite, is the wondrous union of brute face with human expression." The sly fox was still a fox; the placid rabbit with his “honest hairy face ... is also a rabbit still." In short, the creatures had been put into the most comical conditions of human life “without destroying their own natural peculiarities."

Thursday
Apr192007

Sam Sanfilippo and the Albino Squirrels

squirrel-cowboy.jpgIn the basement of his funeral home in Madison, Wisconsin, along with his collection of giant stuffed fish (including a 500 pound blue marlin) and dozens of mammals, Sam Safilippo has set up a world of perky animal dioramas to entertain mourners at funerals.  Some of his dioramas are mechanised - squirrels rock back and forth in chairs - but most just seem to be having a good time on bucking broncos or watching half-naked chipmunks at the Topless Girlie Show. 

Sam has a particularly fine collection of white squirrels, which hail from Marionville, Missouri, a town which proclaims itself to be the white squirrel capital of the world.  According to Roadside America, Marionville the largest and oldest colony of white squirrels in the world - around 300 - 600.  The Lions Club encouages their population by building little wooden houses for them and planting nut-bearing trees, and kicking out grey squirrels.  When a white squirrel is found dead, the town freezes it for Sam.

squirrel_autoban.jpg

Surprisingly, the proclamation of "Home of the White Squirrel" is hardly unique: no less than four other towns use albino squirrels as their claim to fame including Exeter, Ontario, which holds an annual White Squirrel Festival.  [read more about white squirrel rivalries and check out Exeter's music video for White Wonder +].

The original dioramas were prepared by Vito Marchino.  "Got a call that his wife passed away and would I do the body preparation? Sure, I said. Then a half-hour later I got another call. Vito dropped dead, too. He was a wonderful person."  Sam now has a new taxidermist.

squirrel_girlies.jpg

Inforamtion was taken from:
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/WIMADdead.html

Images were taken by from Lebovox's flickr page:
http://flickr.com/photos/etban/sets/72157600089674634/

Sunday
Feb112007

Squirrel Suicide

squirrel-suicide.jpg

The renegade Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is known for his tragiocomedy.  His vision of a post-suicide squirrel strangely titled bidibidobidiboo (1996) is certainly no exception.  His other button-pushing taxidermic works include a donkey heaved up in the air by the weight of his cart and what appears to be a dead (or just exhausted) colt suspended from the ceiling. Cattelan's work is by no means limited to taxidermy.  In fact, he roams freely between sculptural media, whatever seems right for the purpose.  As Jeff Rian highlights, Cattelan is "an improviser of contexts, a manipulator of places and events, a Houdini-like escape artists ... at once a fool, entertainer, joker, magician, provocateur, and stuntman."

Image taken from the front cover of the October 1996 issue of Flash Art Internation; Rian quoted from the same issue.