Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by George, Sep 19, 2020.
Stephen, is this a tornado in a teapot or did the museum need publicity?
Unreal , our world is going to shit
Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History covers up controversial taxidermy display
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pittsburgh museum decided a dramatic diorama that has been on display for more than a century should remain out of public view while it considers ethical issues about its accuracy and appropriateness.
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has covered up the popular “Lion Attacking a Dromedary” diorama, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Thursday.
The museum’s interim director says the scene, which vividly depicts a lion attacking a camel and the man riding it, has disturbed some because it depicts violence against a man described as an Arab courier. The subject’s costume has been determined to be “derived from” at least five separate North African cultures.
The director, Stephen Tonsor, also says recent X-rays showed that the 1860s-era taxidermy was performed with real human bones from an unknown person. Tonsor says the museum’s ethics policy requires that any human remains respect the person’s cultural traditions and be done with permission “of the people whose remains are displayed.”
The museum has no other dioramas that include humans, Tonsor said, “and certainly no white European humans being attacked by animals.” He notes it also depicts a male lion hunting, though it much more common for female lions do the hunting.
The work by French naturalist and taxidermist Edouard Verreaux and his brother, Jules Verreaux, was made for the Paris Exposition of 1867 and has been at the Pittsburgh museum since 1899.
Museum officials are considering whether to display the diorama in a way that makes it available for viewing but also easy to avoid for those who don’t want to see it.
Like 13 point so eloquently said -- this world is going to shit. Look around you -- its everywhere. I too would use human remains in my mounts if I could get some (eyeballing the next demonrat convention). Seriously though, we're talking about a 160+ year old mount -- grow the he*l up!
sorry, but not only am I lost at "use of real humans bones" (which, seriously im not even going to go there) but the fact of how it is highly innacurate for a male lion being depicted as well as the incinsistincies with the attire as well as the overal implausibility of the event occuring naturally does make me question what purpose the piece is serving in its current context of a museum setting. Pieces presented in that setting should be as accurate to nature as possible. As taxidermist we would criticize a piece that depicted a doe making a scrape or a hen strutting. Bad form on the part of the Verreaux brothers.
And it wont be a popular opinion on here but I gotta say I feel those who find the courriers garb being inaccurate offensive are perfectly justified. What if instead of a lion it was a bear attacking a white dude who was wearing a kilt, with leaderhossen suspenders, wooden clogs, and one of those russian furry hats?
But, cultural sensitivity and SOMEONE'S ACTUAL HUMAN REMAINS totally aside, in a museum setting you need to be as close to reality as you can be. Ackley brought his landscape painters with him and when they painted the backdrop of a diorama it would be actually accurate to a scene they witnessed with their eyes. If the piece is depicting a person wearing a combination of clothing highly unlikely a real person of the era would have actually worn, interacting in a highly unlikely way with an animal highly unlikely to be doing what its doing in nature... what purpose is that serving?
All in all, the mount is an antique. Most everything from that era is inaccurate for various reasons. look at Audubons drawings and paintings. Are they accurate, no for the most part. Other mounts and art from that era are depictions of ideas. At the time, they were wondrous. 160+ years later, someones ideas change. Does that make the mount now, unacceptable? No.
As for human remains, I don't see any skeletal remains in the above picture. As they were discovered by xray, I assume they were used in the form of the rider. Their origin is of little consequence as they were more than likely obtained from medical cadavers kept at the time and used for dissections. Pretty sure they weren't going out at night digging up bodies to use for this purpose. The mount should remain, uncovered and on display. If they feel they have to put up a warning sign to prevent those with fragile minds from being offended, so be it.
"The subject’s costume has been determined to be “derived from” at least five separate North African cultures". Fine, so no one group or tribe is represented. It is a cobbled together idea of an Arab rider. That seems fair.
"The director, Stephen Tonsor, also says recent X-rays showed that the 1860s-era taxidermy was performed with real human bones from an unknown person. Tonsor says the museum’s ethics policy requires that any human remains respect the person’s cultural traditions and be done with permission “of the people whose remains are displayed.”" Seriously? They are trying to imply that the taxidermists went out and rounded up real Arab bones to use?? I highly doubt that and what an idiotic comment to make. The bones are not on display seeing that they were used inside the form of the rider. As they were probably obtained from local medical institutions, their origin is immaterial. They probably disarticulated a medical display skeleton for the parts.
Y'all are missing the point!
As a wise taxidermist said above... REALLY!!!
What else or who else can we offend next.
I totally agree! Ridiculous!
Seems as though some are taking offense to everyone taking offense...
When someone offends us, our indignant anger is righteous, just, our God and Constitutional right.... retribution will be swift and stout.
When others voice their issues about an issue that we don’t see a problem with we roll our eyes, find excuses, call them names , and belittle them.
so many well intentioned people don’t ever realize the double standard lens they see the world through and never are capable of empathy.
how many museums display mummies... some exposing thier junk ... and have you heard of the tsavo lions.... who says a male lion wont hunt.... many many bachelor lions out there without females to grocery shop...btw I have watched does make scrapes and anyone who keeps peafowl can attest to hens strutting/displaying
How do they know that permission wasn't given to them to use the bones? You can't just assume that they didn't get permission.Ever watch a nature show about lions? As byrdman said, bachelor lions have to eat somehow and male lions will at times hunt with the females. I'm not a fan of the piece it's self, however, it doesn't bother me either.
I would shake my head, laugh and continue on with my day. I would take no offense and my day would not be ruined just because someone I didn't know did something I don't feel is accurate.
Clovis, obviously you skipped history class and never went to Sunday school. The Romans paid Arab "lion hunters" to supply lions to eat Christians in the Coliseum. These were BARBARY LIONS. (You might need to look that up.) This "interim director" sounds like a bunny hugging twit. The diorama offers NOTHING about a "male lion hunting". And spare me your fake shock about "real bones". Did you forget about REAL SKIN???? A very good source informed me that several African human skins that were stored as "study skins" were quietly removed from a prominent natural history museum and shipped back to Africa a few years back. I wouldn't imagine most Southern African countries doing anything but throwing them out with other trash. Next question is, what event led to this numbnuts "interim director" to (1), x-ray the hunter, and (2) divulge what he'd found. If this idiot was worried that a human cadaver in the diorama might upset someone, why does he think having hid it for 100 years won't cause the same effect. Why not simply remove it, re-costume it "correctly", and keep his mouth shut? It seems todays world is filled with candy assed wimps and pussies afraid the actual history might spoil their tofu. This is what the taxidermy industry is headed for with the Bambi and Baby Yoda mentalities.
And that’s why I hate these Disney movies that humanize animals. People want to think wild animals are just puppies and kittens if given the chance.
Greetings George and the rest of the Taxidermy.net
As this post was initially addressed to myself, I should reply to the best I am able, while being diplomatic as I function as an ambassador for the museum since I am employed at the Carnegie. This post is on a public forum, as opposed to the current events category, so it will be available for view by the general public.
The exhibit currently titled “Lion attacking a Dromedary” is one of the most famous taxidermy groups in the world. At the World Show in 2017, I gave a talk for about an hour in a powerpoint presentation taped by Ken Edwards/World Show, but I do not think the recording was ever made available. The talk was a more detailed history of the taxidermy firm that created the taxidermy mount Maison Verreaux as well as all the stages I believe were involved in the creation of the mount. In late 2016, as part of a rehousing and relocation of the mount as well as and cleaning/restoration of the exhibit, we had the cooperation of the Pittsburgh Medical Examiner’s Office in X-ray exploration of the mount. A portable X-ray machine was brought out primarily to verify whether there were human bones within the mount, and secondarily, I was able to explore the taxidermy methods within the mount. The Collection Manager and Curator of Mammals, the Natural History Conservator, and myself, with help of the forensic employee were able to X-ray small regions of the mount – approximately 18 inch x 36 inch areas. As I was knowledgeable in how taxidermy has been done, I made the most of where to position the screens to obtain the most relevant information.
The information I obtained allowed me to create a model of how the piece was constructed including which bones existed in the upright lion, and the camel. I gave a talk at the conference celebrating the roughly 150th year of the creation of the mount, as it was done in 1867. There were perhaps 8 different talks at the all-day symposium on various aspects of the piece. I expanded the talk for the world show and probably about 40-50 people attended the talk.
Regarding Terry’s comment:
“As for human remains, I don't see any skeletal remains in the above picture. As they were discovered by xray, I assume they were used in the form of the rider. Their origin is of little consequence as they were more than likely obtained from medical cadavers kept at the time and used for dissections. Pretty sure they weren't going out at night digging up bodies to use for this purpose. The mount should remain, uncovered and on display. If they feel they have to put up a warning sign to prevent those with fragile minds from being offended, so be it.”
Actually, reportedly, the firm attended a funeral of an African, and then dug up the corpse and sent it to Paris to be mounted. Many stories have been written about this event and the mount, which eventually was sent back to be buried in Africa. An article written and published by Miquel Molina 28 years ago about some of the history can be downloaded here
There is an original skull within the head of the human manikan, but no bones within the hands. However, the hands were redone by Frederick S Webster when the mount was remade after purchase from the American Museum of Natural History in 1898. The hands currently holding the knife and the neck of the camel, are copied of Gustav Link Senior, who was a preparator/taxidermist at the museum assisting Webster. The position of the courier was changed from the original, and a gun added to perhaps spice up the mount. There is a stereophotograph of the mount which shows the rider in a different pose. There are teeth visible in the mount, so it was always assumed that there was a skull and perhaps more within the mount, but until X-rayed, it was conjecture.
A student at the University of Pittsburgh as a senior project about 2014 or 2015, did some investigation on the mount, and I remember attending the talk and there was wild speculation that the skull may have been Arab, or perhaps obtained from the French Catacombs. They thought perhaps some sampling could be done to find the origin of the skull if the exhibit was ever opened again. As it was, a year or two later, no samples were taken, but a sample was taken of the lion to see if the DNA could be ascertained to verify the lion was indeed a Barbary Lion which is listed as extinct. Technically, portions of the DNA probably still exist, as portions of Neanderthal DNA still exist also, but that is another topic. The DNA could not be obtained.
In light of the current cultural upheaval within the United States, primarily in Democratic cities with Democratic governors, there was a top-down evaluation regarding this exhibit. As fits the importance of the taxidermy exhibit, in 2017, the mount was re-positioned within the museum and it is prominently visible to the general public, well before the upheaval. There are those that are revulsed by this exhibit and others that have fond appreciation of the exhibit as when they first saw it decades before as children. It is like politics, some people are revulsed that Donald Trump is president, but others celebrate the person and are disgusted with Nancy Pelosi. The museum being a public venue, and beholding to the patrons who support our great museum, have to accommodate both sides.
I was not part of the decision to take the exhibit off viewing, nor on the committee to decide the fate. I suggested replacement of the head, and as I understand it, others suggested 3-D printing one. However, the museum has decided to restore to habitat group to voluntary public view. This means that visitors will be able to view it by their choice, going behind a curtain or walled off area ,as opposed to being forced to see it.
An interesting tidbit I did convey to the administration, it that the skull within the mount is probably a skull re-purposed from some medical supply specimen. The x-ray of the mount, and smaller image which I attach here, shows a set of springs, so that the jaw could be opened and closed. This was probably one that would be very similar to a skull within a Medical Doctors office or a dentist. I found an image on google of a skull with a spring very similar. The Verreaux firm probably used the medical skull as a base upon which to sculpt the features of the head, and the only portion showing was the teeth.
Discussions regarding composition of the mount and clothing from different tribes/factions seem petty. Google “African Lion Taxidermy Mount Hunting” and you will see dozens of award-winning mounts of male lions attacking prey. Clothing in northern Africa was probably a hodgepodge of whatever was available for sale or barter. Americans certainly wear cloths made of many countries and many cultures, but even wearing cloths of a different culture now is termed “cultural appropriation”.
You can’t please everyone, but the taxidermy mount will still be available to see on exhibit, sometime this week.
That was very well written and quite enjoyable to read -- thanks PA.
That was a great read. Thank you PA!