19th Century

Those crazy (creepy) Victorians – take 4

Some time ago, someone mentioned Walter Potter to me, but foolishly, I didn’t look in to him.

Last week, I was reminded again.  And boy, have my eyes been opened.

This is Walter Potter:

He looks like a lovely, staid Victorian gentleman.

Until you see what he did for a job.

This is Potter’s most famous work:

Yes, those are kittens.

Taxidermied kittens.

Having a tea party.

Felicity does not approve. (Damian Hirst does though, go figure)

Potter worked with other animals too:

Athletic toads

Who thinks up exercising toads?  I mean, really!?!

Apparently they are all mechanised, and do their individual exercises.

Freaky.

The Rabbit's Village School

Rabbit pupils and teacher

When bunnies at school starts too look ‘normal’, you know you have seen too many of these works.

Only the Victorian’s could have thought up, and celebrated, something like this.

The genre is called ‘Victorian Whimsy’.  Really.

Potter ran a museum dedicated to his works in Brighton.  Tourists could take special coach trips from Brighton just to see the works too.  I kid you not.

Should you really feel the need to see these up close, they will be on display at the Museum of Everything in Primrose Hill, London, until Christmas this year.

18 Comments

  1. Me thinks that Mr. Potter was just a tid bit toooo interested in those taxidermy chemicals….

  2. eeek! *runs away in horror*

    Although “Museum of Everything” sounds really cool. Almost as cool as the Ministry of Silly Walks!

  3. I have to admit, I’m slightly amused by this. It’s weird, but fascinating. I’d never heard of him or these works before, but thanks so much for sharing it with us! I sent this URL to my husband so he could check it out, too. I’m looking forward to seeing what his reaction is. Ha! 😀

  4. Joie de Vivre says

    Wow. Wonder if that is where the idea for Sylvanian Families came from?

    I’m sorry but I can’t help but think that visually they’re kind of cute (but then I was a Sylvanian Families addict as a child) and be impressed by the skill in creating the miniatures and the dioramas (Weta would be proud) but the fact that they are real really interferes with that (creepy!) and it breaks my heart that those cute wee kittens may have been euthanased for the purpose!

    • The museum that showed Potter’s works insists that no animals were killed to create them. I’m not sure if I believe that, but I comfort myself by thinking that they would all be dead now anyway.

      • Joie de Vivre says

        As dubious as I am that kittens died of natural causes by the dozens ready to be collected by a taxidermist with a bent for unusual art I am somewhat mollified – I am prepared to believe the museum as if makes me feel better about otherwise almost sort of liking these things.

  5. They would be dead and rotted and forgotten, so is it better to have (kitten) immortality?

    Sometimes I think that about mummies on display in museums. It seems kind of horrible and disrespectful. Yet I have to wonder- are they immortal because their names live on and people see them?

    • I doubt kittens care about immortality. They were probably more interested in yarn.

      Personally, I think putting mummies on display is wrong. However they believed in immortality, it didn’t include sitting in a glass case and having schoolkids say “Oooh” and “Ewww” all day!

      • Could not agree more about the mummies. I remember one room in the debatably odious British Museum, human remains curled up in little glass cases. Horrid.

  6. Ya know, if you were to do that today it would be considered seriously edgy.
    The Victorians found it sweet. :-/

  7. jackiead says

    Disgusting! Could weidro Mr. Potter have some respect for little furry creatures? Taxidermied kittens and bunnies are so creepy.

  8. Chloe says

    Possibly as a result of watching Antiques Roadshow for far too long, I find them rather cute. Probably (again from watching too much Antiques Roadshow) because they look EXACTLY like the pictures painted around the same time. Cutesy and anthropomorphic.

    Except with more dead things.

    It’d probably be slightly different if I viewed them in person, with slightly more squick than viewing through a computer screen, but these aren’t hunting trophies or pets whose owners can’t part with. They’re not biological museum specimens either but they aren’t tacky. They’ve been carefully arranged in an artistic manner and kept in good condition. That and Antiques Roadshow makes me consider them more art than morbid dioramas.

    Not that the Victorians weren’t morbid. It just makes taxidermed animals a bit less squicky.

  9. Paul Miller says

    I admit I am both horrified and delighted. Despite the back story, they really are cute. By the way, great zombie punk band name: Dead Kitten Tea Party.

  10. Check out Gopher Hole Museum in Alberta Canada. Not as well done but equally facinating. Catches the attention the same way a horrible car crash does. It is horrible but you can`t stop looking.

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