Friday, October 15, 2010

Barnyard Freak

Walter Potter (1835-1918) is know for his taxidermy dioramas of animals that have human like characteristics, such as "The Death and Burial of Cock Robin"(Detail Close Up on Left). The owl pictured on the right is a grave digger and the black bird on the left is a priest; perhaps "he" is saying a final prayer to comfort all those who are mourning the death of Cock Robin. Other dioramas can be even more humorous or ironic such as two squirrels sword fighting to the death ("The Death"), rats stealing barrels of wine, or two mice trying to aid another mouse out of a trap("A Friend in Need").

Not all of his works tell satirical tales illustrated through elaborate dioramas. My personal favorites of Potter's works come from an even more morbid collection of botched animal births. Below is a cat born with 8 legs and two tails that had lived several days and a cat born with two heads. Among his collection he had cured and stuffed a duck born with 4 legs that lived 13 years, siamese pigs, a two headed lamb and many more farm animals with obscure and monstrous birth defects.

I have come to understand that Potter did not purposefully kill any of the animals in his collection. All were obtained due to natural deaths or executions by a farm hand or wife due to the animals' pesky behavior.

Next Wednesday is the opening of a new exhibition that will feature works by Potter. Unfortunately, it will be in Primrose Hill, London at the Museum of Everything.


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