Taxidermy is often thought of as kitschy and even scary. But, what is the place of the taxidermic arts in the 21st century? Have a read here.
There’s a Twitter account that’s definitely not for the faint of heart. “Crap Taxidermy” is where the stuffed animals of your nightmares go to hang out.
I live in a pretty beautiful place that’s full of a lot of leftie-hippies and art-loving people, so it’s not often I’m confronted with the garish and uncouth decor of the world. So naturally @CrapTaxidermy is one of my favorite mind-blowing pages to check out.
Where else can you upend a lyric by Coldplay with one of the weirdest images you’ll ever see, a stuffed baby duck playing a guitar?
Who thinks of these things? Imagine someone just sitting there, stroking their chin, when they suddenly blurt: “A-ha! I know what the living room needs!”
Yes, “Plucky” the Guitar-Wielding Ducky: Exactly what the mantle is missing!
Not all taxidermy is crap
If I had to lay odds on it here, today, I’d say there’s a safe bet I can live the next half of my life without ever feeling the impulse to buy a mummified animal to hang on my wall. It’s not really my thing.
That said, there are times I’ll see a mounted animal’s head or some other form of taxidermy and find myself surprised that I think it fits in a space, or better yet, completes it.
Places like libraries, mountain cabins, unusual eateries, and many more all make oddly appropriate places to find hunting trophies.
Sometimes, as in the case of this strange placement of a stuffed, mounted whole fox standing between two lamps, it’s hard not to be a little weirded out by taxidermy, and maybe that’s the point. Irony, conflict, confusion.
But then this imposing moosehead hanging on the wall in a Norwegian mountain retreat makes perfect sense. Around 300 miles north of Oslo, this 111-year-old lodge, it was likely a popular hunting retreat in another era. Today, it’s where hardcore cycling adventurists, motorcyclists, and other lifestyle travellers stop as they explore the more remote fjiords, but the moose is a part of that experience,
Not just for imperialists
It’s easy to think of taxidermy as something more related to imperialist hunters of times gone by in Africa and India, as well as a remnant of the Appalachian way of life, but the truth is, taxidermy extends as far back as ancient Egypt.
Pharaohs and other Egyptians were buried with mummified cats and other animals. Their pets were beloved and mummification is thought to have been a way to take their pets into the afterlife.
In the Victorian era, when European countries were fully involved in imperialism in the Americas, Africa, and India, taxidermy became both an element of design as well as a status symbol in the new era of world travel. That’s when the true concept of “trophy hunting” was taken to new levels.
What makes good taxidermy?
Some might object to taxidermy being called a lost art, but it really is. When done well, generally in museums or true hunting regions by longtime taxidermists, the intended effect is to pay homage to the animal, to strike a post of realism.
There are all kinds of strong opinions on “trophy” hunting and I’m in the “opposed” camp, but in the case of antique taxidermy, what’s done is done. It’s a piece of history now. Some stand as sad tributes to animals hunted to the brink of tradition. Should we just throw them out? I think that’d be a tragedy.
Some of these mounted creatures, what makes them such impactful pieces through the test of time is their authentic pose. Their snarls aren’t campy or overdone. Then there’s the eyes, which have to have life and presence despite death — no small feat, and typically where you’ll be able to see excellence or failure in the art of taxidermy.
That’s what’s hard to find, and that’s why the well-done pieces that really capture that authenticity tend to command good prices even in this politically correct age. Whether it’s in an Adirondacks lodge, a Southwestern Adobe ranch, or hanging in an old library, taxidermy can complete a “wild” look like nothing else can.