Monday, April 4, 2011

Rogue Taxidermy

I was intrigued this week by a post on the Steampunk Facebook page about a Victorian era taxidermist named Walter Potter (1835-1918). It was the strangest form of taxidermy I'd ever seen. He had taken dead animals and stuffed and posed them in elaborate scenes. It would be cute if they weren't real animals. I have to say I was disturbed, even though I know these animals died a long time ago, and social mores were different then.

Though it has been around for ages, taxidermy became quite popular during the 19th century. At the time most people believed that humans were dominant over nature. Hunting and displaying animals as trophies were an extension of this mindset. With a growing middle class, better transportation and access to "the colonies" it was not unusual to find mounted animal heads, fur rugs and stuffed wild animals as decorations in middle class and wealthy homes of the era.

Two bizarre forms of taxidermy increased in popularity as well, during the Victorian era - anthropomorphic and rogue taxidermy. Walter Potter's work is an example of the anthropomorphic kind. Another example is Edward Hart who did a series of boxing squirrels.

The other kind - rogue taxidermy involves making animals that never existed like griffins, unicorns, flying cats etc. They were often showed in various traveling "freak shows" of the time.

So what do you think of this? Deplorable? Interesting? A product of it's time? Let me know.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. I'm not really a fan of taxidermy. That said, if you're going to do it, I think a dead animal tea party is much more creative and interesting than some rich jerk hanging a buffalo head on his wall. Very interesting post!

  2. This is definitely weird, but not the weirdest thing I've ever seen. I'm far more creeped out by the hair wreaths than this, lol. In its own little special vein, this was the work of artists - not to my taste, mind you, but that's me. I almost find it whimsical...

  3. That first scene reminds me of the mouse dioramas made by the guy in "Dinner for Shmucks". Adorably disturbing? Disturbingly adorable?
    Those faux legendary creature ones are really neat, I must say.

  4. Alittle interesting but mostly deplorable. I think you have to be a little twisted to do such things, even back then!