Monday, 20 September 2010

grotesque but foxy

You are probably wondering which taxidermological exhibit the crowds went nuts for at the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851. The answer: Reinecke the Fox, a comical depiction of the Reynard myth put together by the Royal Museum in Stuttgart's Hermann Ploucquet. The only competition was Ploucquet's tableau of a frog shaving another frog. The queen loved that one.

You can see why it started a craze for anthropomorphically posed animals ('the grotesque school'). As the excellent Still Life explains, there were violining crows, squirrels playing Romeo, huge kitten weddings and frogs doing almost everything (Montagu Browne, in Practical Taxidermy, wrote, that frogs are much the best mirth inducing characters. Monkeys, the second-best, are 'not half so funny').

Bonus fact: in birding, 'jizz' means the general impression and shape of a bird. Good taxidermy should capture a bird's jizz.

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