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Dead kittens and five-assed monkeys


I grew up in a house crammed to the rafters with taxidermy. Mostly things my grandfather shot, but my dad added his bits and they both picked up a few curiosities and, you know, creepy floating junk in cloudy formaldehyde jars. I freaking hate taxidermy. All those bad mounts, crooked faces, dusty bald patches and shiny, shiny glass eyes. Vengeful shiny. Angry shiny.

Okay, I can understand the hunting trophies, even if they creep me out. I can understand the curiosities, even if they really, REALLY creep me out. I can just about squint, tilt my head on one side and understand the various useful hardware, like ashtrays and doorknobs, made out of bits of animal bound in metal. But I will never EVER comprehend how our grandparents could find dead stuffed animal tableaux in any way, shape or form cute.

I think that lobe of the human brain plumb dried up, rolled over and fell off in the last hundred years.

JuliaM posted a link in the comments to a site called Crappy Taxidermy that brought my taxidermiphobia roaring back with a hideous, throbbing immediacy. Oh, yes…I looked at all sixty pages of posts. Every last sad, twisted, bulbous, crusty, mangled fuck-up of a nasty dessicated beastie.

I can has nightmares.

One name kept cropping up: Walter Potter (1835-1918). I know I’ve seen pictures of his work before, and I bet you have, too. Potter was a local Sussex lad, the son of a publican. He took up taxidermy as a hobby and spent seven years building his first tableau, the Death and Burial of Cock Robin.

Some years and hundreds of dead animals later, dude put together a whole museum in Bramber, Sussex. Huge set pieces. Individual mounts. Two-headed lambs and eight-legged kittens.

His most famous pieces remained large tableaux, built out of frogs or rats or squirrels or adorable fluffy bunnies or sweet baby kittens. FREAKING KITTENS. Oh, dear lord Jesus — dead stuffed kittens with twisted faces and vacant eyes. Dressed up for a wedding party or serving each other cups of tea and slices of cake.

Improbably, the whole museum was kept intact and roughly in this area until quite recently. It was broken up and sold at auction in 2003, so I *just* missed seeing it.

Thank CHRIST for that.

August 24, 2009 — 7:24 pm
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