Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Kitten's Wedding

Possibly to make up the absence of Garfield from the previous illustrations, here find what my wife found classified as Anthropomorphic Taxidermy in Wikipedia. The entry there explains this art, popular during the late 19th and early 20c in England. "The most famous practitioner was English taxidermist Walter Potter. His most famous work includes The Upper Ten or Squirrels’ Club featuring 18 European red squirrels socialising at their 'club', and Death of Cock Robin, a setting of the nursery rhyme."

This tableau sparked an outburst of laughter when I saw it at the Victoria & Albert a few years ago during their fittingly Victorian exhibit. I the ugly American was the only one audibly amused within my earshot.

My Irish blood does quail at the thought that I could flaunt mirth from this period so close to and encompassing the Famine, but chalk that risibility up to 1) my long interest in this diverse and too stereotyped (as that of the Middle Ages) period, which was a sub-specialty of mine in my qualifying exams for my Brit Lit Ph.D. 2) my catholic sense of gallows humor 3) my habitual love of (certain) domestic animals and how we show our twisted affection for these poor dumb beasties 4) my inability to take much seriously unless my ego's at stake 5) my sensibility which has little room for sentimentality unless my ego's at stake.

In fact, I dragged my sons and spouse back to this diorama at the V & A, which luckily was a short walk from our rented basement flat in Knightsbridge at the Snow White Apartments. These premises were dominated by a tawny puss larger than lasagned Garfield, named Custard. She would have appreciated, I know, this exhibit. We told her all about it.

Walter Potter made many such displays in the latter half of Victoria's reign. This is one of his best known. There's an earnest tenderness in such a difficult endeavor, awkwardly expressed yet moving to me. This combination, in fact, represents the spirit of its time. It's also his final arrangement, from the 1890s.

You can find out much more at: A Case of Curiousities

1 comment:

Layne said...

God I love the Kitten's Wedding. We have accumulated a collection of pet crematorium cans over the decades which I call the “ash menagerie”. I wonder if this might be a much more satisfying alternative for future inevitability, although I don’t want a tableaux of our dogs playing poker