Introduction by Errol Fuller

For decades taxidermy was regarded as something of a music hall turn, the butt of comedians' jokes, disparaging remarks by journalists with nothing more pressing to write about, and sniggers in the saleroom. The famous scene with a moose's head in Fawlty Towers, or the fabulous set-dressing for Steptoe and Son are simply reflections of the general attitude that prevailed towards taxidermy. Even the English language grew to subtly accommodate this attitude with phrases like 'get stuffed' used as a general insult, or 'stuff it' as an expressive term for writing something off.
It wasn't always so.

During the last half of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, taxidermy had its finest flowering and its products were highly acclaimed and highly regarded. The great houses of Britain were full of natural history trophies. The middle classes - aping their betters - aspired to displays of brightly coloured tropical birds for their drawing rooms, often showing them beneath glittering glass domes. In farm houses and country cottages there were more rustic products - fox heads, cased pheasants or barn owls. This was the golden age of natural history collecting and it coincided with - and was stimulated by - great discoveries connected with the natural world. In natural sciences this was the age of Darwin and Wallace, Huxley, Owen, and Mantell; in the realm of animal painting it was the time of Landseer, Audubon, Keulemans. Gould, Wolf, and Lear. And taxidermy was one of the major facilitators of this scientific and artistic explosion. The desire for private collections of taxidermy went hand in hand with this surge in interest resulting in costly items that were at the cutting edge of scientific development. Not only did these items hold an intrinsic fascination but they conferred upon their owners the qualities of respectability, good taste and intellectual sensibility. In other words they had snob cache.

But then during the years between World War I and World War II, taxidermy began to fall from favour, and once the fall began it was rapid - and almost total. Why did such a dramatic change occur? The reasons are probably many and complex.

There are, of course, the natural vagaries of fashion allied to the idea that what seems admirable in one period does not necessarily seem attractive during a later one. In the case of taxidermy, what had appeared appealing and intellectually stimulating to one generation seemed only morbid and depressing to another. Changing attitudes to animals and a growing realization that the natural world was very much under threat made taxidermy seem crude and distasteful. To such considerations can be added the comparatively recent invention of political correctness.

Then there are the objects themselves, and here too the reputation of taxidermy can suffer. Far too many grubby, bug-eyed fox heads or long neglected, poorly-stuffed birds turn up in sales or junk shops, and these reflect badly on the subject in general. The reasons for the existence of such horrid relics are not, in fact, difficult to determine.

In its heyday, top class pieces of taxidermy (of just the kind featured here) were very much the preserve of rich men and were way beyond the pockets of anyone of ordinary means. These were the products of highly skilled operators, men like Rowland Ward of Piccadilly, Peter Spicer of Leamington Spa, or John Cullingford of Durham. But there were, of course, many less able taxidermists who produced work of an inferior or even shoddy standard. Inevitably, this poorer work outnumbers the finer pieces. For every top quality piece that survives, there are many of a much poorer standard and so - naturally - it is these latter kinds of item that most commonly turn up.

The products of the great taxidermists are, by their very nature, rare. If the creature featured is unusual, they are rarer still. If they also happen to have remained in good condition, then the rarity factor is so much the greater. For, as with all other kinds of antiques, condition is an elusive, highly prized commodity. Cotinga's exceptional stock shows all three of these ingredients and never deviates from them. It may be possible to find a stuffed owl or stuffed squirrel relatively easily and relatively cheaply, but to find examples produced to the highest standards is a different matter entirely.

For years, taxidermy was in the doldrums, but times change and, just as it once dropped rapidly out of favour, recent years have brought about a kind of renaissance. The products of the craft are once again fashionable. In fact, they are hot!  The works of contemporary artists like Polly Morgan, Damian Hirst or Maurizio Cattelan have regularly featured taxidermy or objects from the natural world, attracting interest from many quarters, and arousing the curiosity and enthusiasm of those who may never previously have been exposed to the subject. And, once again, there are many people who have taken up the craft and are producing work of a high standard. The idea of 'ethical' taxidermy has taken root, by which is meant that modern work should use only creatures that have died naturally, rather than animals that have been killed for the purpose, and this has resulted in young people taking up the craft in ever increasing numbers - particularly young women!  New books are regularly published featuring the work of old time taxidermists and also that of modern exponents; every year seems to see several more. And all the time the demand for good quality work - both old and modern - increases.

 
 

Cotinga London
27 Old Gloucester Street
London
WC1N 3AX
United Kingdom

(+44) 7988 698663
info@cotingalondon.com

 
Study for Andromeda by William Etty RA.
Stock NO. 6561
 
Black-throated Diver Attributed to Cullingford
Stock NO. 6560
 
Little bitterns by Joseph Cullingford
Stock NO. 6557
The Cullingford family operated out of the north of England and most of their very superior work went straight into museums or superior collections. Their bare cases, designed very much in the characteristic north eastern style, were arranged to show the excellence of the taxidermy and the beauty of the subject, without any visual distraction. These cases appear remarkably modern despite the fact that they mostly date from the 1890s. This case shows a pair of Little Bitterns in one of their very stylised displays.
 
Ozymandias I, oil on canvas by Catherine Wallis
Stock NO. 6500
Size: approx. 102cm x 76.5cm x 4cm
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said, 'two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand Half sunk, a shattered visage lies,whose frown And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed' And on the pedestal these words appear 'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my works ye Mighty and despair!' Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.
 
Model of a Horse
Stock NO. 6542
Size: approx. 49cm x 53cm x 16.5cm
This amazing model was apparently constructed from the skin of a foal, and was presumably produced as a novelty item to evoke surprise and admiration in any viewer who chanced upon it. Perhaps it was intended to create a sense of mystery - was it actually a true miniature horse or some intriguing artificial concoction? Obviously, it is the latter but it is so cunningly crafted that it is easy to imagine people being fooled into thinking it might be real. A written inscription may shed light on all of this but unfortunately it is now largely illegible.
SOLD
 
Taxidermy Lady Cust's egg, Great auk egg no.21
 
Lady Cust's egg, Great auk egg no.21
Stock NO. 6505
 
Taxidermy Monkey Artist Musical Automaton by Jean Phalibois, c. 1895
 
Monkey Artist Musical Automaton by Jean Phalibois, c. 1895
Stock NO. 6517
With papier-mâché head, fixed bright blue glass eyes, articulated lip and jaw, seated amidst ferns and flowers before a miniature watercolor portrait of a female monkey holding a fan and mirror, on ebonized base containing two-air pull-string cylinder movement stamped "AL" (No. 7821) and going-barrel automaton movement with five boxwood cams that cause the artist to turn and nod his head and chatter as he takes paint from his palette in a dabbing motion and applies it in broad brushstrokes to the portrait, in original silk costume trimmed with Dresden paper, under antique glass dome, ht. 19 ½ in. (50 cm) including dome. With long brass key. - A monkey automaton with amusing motions, in good unrestored working condition. - Silber & Fleming illustrated a similar piece in their 1884 catalog, advertised at £5, 10 shillings. - Literature: Mary Hillier, "Automata & Mechanical Toys", p. 117 for catalog illustration.
SOLD
Taxidermy A Fasciculus of Eight Drawings on Stone of Groups of Birds by John Hancock.
 
A Fasciculus of Eight Drawings on Stone of Groups of Birds by John Hancock.
Stock NO. 6518
Size: Approx. 55.5cm x 38cm
Description: Hullmandel & Watlton, Lithog: London. Newcastle upon Tyne, Published by the Author. 1853. Bound portfolio with original covers; eight lithographic plates; notices; list of subscribers. 551 x 381mm (21¾ x 15"). Covers worn along spine. Some foxing.
A collection of lithographs produced for the Great Exhibition. John Hancock (1808-1890), was highly regarded as an expert in the study of ornithology and attained a national reputation as an accomplished taxidermist. He was a member of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne from its inception in 1829. As his prowess in the art of taxidermy increased he was often called upon to prepare specimens for the local gentry. In order to advertise his talents further afield he created a selection of dramatic taxidermy mounts which he displayed at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London in1851. He later produced a large folio book of lithographs of the mounts on display 'A Fasciculus of Eight Drawings on Stone of Groups of Birds', published in 1853.
 
 
Taxidermy Vigil's Echo by Rachel Ann Stevenson
 
Vigil's Echo by Rachel Ann Stevenson
Stock NO. 6519
Size: approx. 56.5cm x 28cm x 18cm
Description: Mixed media. Cold cast poly stone. Steel. Edition of 15. Set in an antique glass dome.
 
Pheasants in Aberration by P. Spicer & Sons.
Stock NO. 6568
SOLD
Taxidermy Matching pair of oval wall domes featuring Jay, Skylark, Corncrake and Redwing. French circa 1870.
 
Matching pair of oval wall domes featuring Jay, Skylark, Corncrake and Redwing. French circa 1870.
Stock NO. 6571
 
 
Pair of Lesser bird-of-paradise
Stock NO. 6549
Size: approx. 58cm x 46cm x 38cm
A Victorian glass dome with a highly unusual arrangement of male and female Lesser Birds of Paradise in outstanding condition. Although male Lesser Birds of Paradise turn up from time to time, they are often badly faded or poorly stuffed. This one has neither of these defects. What is equally important and unusual is the fact that this dome houses a female. Female birds of paradise are only rarely encountered as the original collectors showed little interest in them, preferring the bright colours and decorative plumage of the males. In a way reminiscent of native New Guineans, who often use the ornamental plumes in their tribal headdresses, they believed that only the males had an appearance that would attract the attention of their customers. The likelihood of acquiring another female is, therefore, remote.
 
Taxidermy A perfectly presented King Bird of Paradise
 
A perfectly presented King Bird of Paradise
Stock NO. 6524
Size: approx. 36cm x 17cm x 20.5cm
The King Bird of Paradise is one of the characteristic birds of lowland New Guinea and although it doesn't much resemble the more familiar birds of paradise, it is linked to them by many structural similarities. This male specimen is in perfect condition
 
Superb bird-of-Paradise, c. late 19th Century.
Stock NO. 6528
Size: approx. 41cm x 39cm x 21cm
Although they do not look like the more familiar birds of paradise this species, known as Superb Birds on account of the immaculate plumage of the male, is an important member of the bird of paradise family. This male specimen is shown in one of its display attitudes.
 
Taxidermy Magnificent bird-of-paradise
 
Magnificent bird-of-paradise
Stock NO. 6555
Size: approx. 40cm x 31cm x 21cm
The Magnificent Bird of Paradise is quite unlike the image that most people have of a bird of paradise. However, it is at rue member of the group, United to them by various structural similarities. Although it may not look like the more familiar kinds, it is a fantastically beautiful bird in its own right and this specimen is in perfect condition showing all of its exquisite plumage colouration.
 
Count raggi's bird-of-paradise fire screen Circa 1890
Stock NO. 6545
Size: approx. 119cm x 68cm x 27cm
Count Raggi?s Bird of Paradise is one of the iconic species in the family. There are more than 40 species but only 5 of these have the characteristic flank plumes that most people associate with birds of paradise. It may be true to say that Count Raggi?s, only discovered in the 1870?s is the species that most people associate with the family. It?s bright red flank plumes make it particularly spectacular in appearance which is probably why a specimen was chosen to decorate this spectacular Victorian fire screen. Also, the fact that it was a relatively new discover would have given it additional importance in Victorian times.
SOLD
 
Sawfish Rostrum Circa. 1905
Stock NO. 6563
SOLD
Jungle birds by Williams of Dublin
Stock NO. 6532
Size: approx. 108cm x 68cm x 22cm
The firm of Wiliams and Sons was one of Ireland's leading taxidermy exponents and, as might be expected, most of their work featured Irish mammals, birds and fish. This unusual case shows that this was not always so and that the firm was equally adept at dealing with brightly coloured tropical birds that came from various parts of the world. The central figure of this particular case is a small, but spectacular, species of hornbill.
 
Taxidermy Tiger head trophy by Van Ingen and Van Ingen of Mysore, India
 
Tiger head trophy by Van Ingen and Van Ingen of Mysore, India
Stock NO. 6489
This man eater killed 11 villagers before being shot by Col. Barlow-Wheeler, political advisor to Sir Winston Churchill. Col. Barlow-Wheeler joined the Indian Army in 1931 after Sandhurst and became C/O of the 11th regiment of the Sikh Light Infantry. He served with them in Burma during the war and was awarded the DSO.
SOLD
 
Indian Gharial taken by Capt. Walter Octavius Duncombe (1846-1917)
Stock NO. 6544
Size: approx. 82cm x 63cm x 40cm
A magnificient Indian gharial head of very large size and in perfect order. There is some very interesting data accompanying this specimen. It was killed by Captain Walter Octavius Duncombe and our research has revealed a photographic portrait of this gentleman - a copy of which will be provided with the specimen.
SOLD
 
 
A freeform Lapis Lazuli Specimen
Stock NO. 6504
Size: approx. 26cm x 15.5cm x 8cm
Lapis lazuli has been mined and prized for thousands of years for its intense blue colour. Although it can be found in various far-flung places around the world, in its purest form it only occurs in Afghanistan and Pakistan from where it was exported in ancient times to Egypt and Rome. Later, during the Renaissance, many of the greatest European painters acquired lapis and ground it to produce the deepest (and costliest) of blue pigments. Today large pieces of lapis lazuli are highly prized and many of the areas where it occurs are controlled by the Taliban making it difficult to acquire. Not only is the material rare but it is comparatively difficult to extract large unbroken lumps. In recent years it has become very popular with the Chinese who call it 'blue and gold stone' on account of the golden bands that often occur in this otherwise blue rock.
 
Taxidermy A rare and spectacular Victorian fire screen by H Ward with over one hundred Hummingbirds
 
A rare and spectacular Victorian fire screen by H Ward with over one hundred Hummingbirds
Stock NO. 6570
Size: approx. 145cm x 127cm x 55cm
Taxidermy 19th Century Walrus Skull
 
19th Century Walrus Skull
Stock NO. 6562
Size: Skull - 63cm x 31cm x 30 cm Tusks measure - 37cm & 38cm in length
A magnificent walrus skull with a wonderfully antiquarian patina and feel. Along with the hippo and the babirusa the skull of the walrus is perhaps the most sought after of all skulls due to its fascinatingly decorative shape and its beautiful and spectacular tusks.
 
 
Taxidermy Cotton-topped monkey
 
Cotton-topped monkey
Stock NO. 6553
Size: approx. 58cm x 36cm x 23cm
Although comparatively small, the highly endangered 'Cotton-topped' monkey is a rather spectacular species. Complete with article 10 document as required by law. Certificate number: 553970/01
 
Taxidermy Hummingbirds by Charles Waterton dated 1820
 
Taxidermy Hummingbirds by Charles Waterton dated 1820
Stock NO. 6502
Size: approx. 57cm x 54cm x 18cm
Charles Waterton was one of the most important and eccentric figures in the nineteenth century craze for natural history, and he wrote one of the most celebrated travel books of the period -Wanderings in South America. He devised his own methods for preparing specimens and criticised many of his contemporaries for what he perceived to be the inferiority of their work. Most of his preparations date from the 1820s and 1830s so his work is considerably earlier than most of the pieces of nineteenth century taxidermy that survive today. At his death he left the vast majority of his work to his old school Stoneyhurst College, and a proportion of this has been on loan to the Wakefield Museum. Cotinga know of only one other example of his work in private hands.
 
Taxidermy Cotton-eared Monkeys
 
Cotton-eared Monkeys
Stock NO. 6535
Size: approx. 57cm x 32cm x 21cm
This Victorian glass dome is remarkable in that it features an adult monkey with two of its babies. Probably, it originates from a sad series of deaths in a zoo where the adult failed to successfully rear its young.
 
Horned Toad by T.E. Gunn
 
Horned Toad by T.E. Gunn
Stock NO. 6536
Size: approx. 44cm x 36cm x 7cm
T.E. Gunn, taxidermist of Norwich, built up a reputation for high quality work and this reputation spread throughout East Anglia and the rest of Britain. He is mostly celebrated for high quality cases featuring birds that were found in 19th century Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, but occasionally he was called upon to prepare creatures from farther afield. This curious species is a rare example of this and the decorative wall dome in which it is presented renders it doubly unusual. Although the common name for the animal is 'horned toad' is not a toad at all; it is a lizard. There are several closely related species and some are able to squirt streams of blood from the corner of their eyes as a defence mechanism.
SOLD
 
Meadowlarks by Joseph Cullingford
Stock NO. 6558
The Meadowlark is a common North American. species. Although most of Cullingford?s subjects were British, quite a number were American, and the family clearly had some supply line from that continent.
 
Jackass Penguins
Stock NO. 6537
Size: approx. 70cm x 68cm x 26cm
The jackass penguin is a species that is giving rise to enormous concern. Although still quite common in the areas it inhabits, its numbers have fallen drastically in the last few decades and there is no reason to suppose that this decline will not continue. The reasons for it are essentially unknown. This marvellous assemblage beneath large glass dome shows an adult bird with its chick, and each has been beautifully and sympathetically prepared.
 
Model of an African King
 
Model of an African King
Stock NO. 6534
Hippopotamus Skull
Stock NO. 6538
Size: approx. 66cm x 58cm x 46cm
The hippopotamus has one of the most remarkable and decorative of all skulls. Not only is it (as would be expected!) enormous, it is also very complex in terms of its shape. This specimen has been eroded away in a small area to show the amazing internal structure of the bone.
SOLD
 
 
Coco De Mer
Stock NO. 6277
Size: approx. 31cm x 30cm
In the Maldives, any Coco de Mer nuts that were found in the ocean or on the beaches were supposed to be given to the king, and keeping a nut for yourself or selling it could have resulted in the death penalty. However, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor was able to purchase one of these nuts for 4,000 gold florins. The Dutch Admiral Wolfert Hermanssen also received a nut as a gift for his services, from the Sultan of Bantam in 1602, for fighting the Portuguese and protecting the capital of Bantam. However, the nut that the admiral was given was missing the top part; apparently the Sultan had ordered the top of the nut to be cut off, in order not to upset the noble admirals modesty.
SOLD
 
Dodo leg bone.
Stock NO. 6546
SOLD
 
"The Jewel Thief"
Stock NO. 6554
Size: approx. 66cm x 28.5cm x 19cm
Description: Taxidermy White-nosed Guenon mounted on marble in a Victorian square sided glass dome.
 
Rupell's vulture
Stock NO. 6572
Description: A magnificent modern example of a Rupell's vulture
SOLD
 
 
Taxidermy Blonde Turtle Shell, taken by Capt. Philip Tocque
 
Blonde Turtle Shell, taken by Capt. Philip Tocque
Stock NO. 6565
Size: approx. 68cm x 53cm x 14cm
Description: A very large blonde Turtle carapace (Podocnemis expansa), of exceptional patina and highly polished.
SOLD
 
Taxidermy Blonde Turtle Shell, Para, April 1923
 
Blonde Turtle Shell, Para, April 1923
Stock NO. 6564
Size: approx. 54cm x 40cm
SOLD
 
Sawfish Rostrum Circa. 1905
Stock NO. 6563
SOLD
Taxidermy 19th Century Walrus Skull
 
19th Century Walrus Skull
Stock NO. 6562
Size: Skull - 63cm x 31cm x 30 cm Tusks measure - 37cm & 38cm in length
A magnificent walrus skull with a wonderfully antiquarian patina and feel. Along with the hippo and the babirusa the skull of the walrus is perhaps the most sought after of all skulls due to its fascinatingly decorative shape and its beautiful and spectacular tusks.
 
 
Coco De Mer
Stock NO. 6277
Size: approx. 31cm x 30cm
In the Maldives, any Coco de Mer nuts that were found in the ocean or on the beaches were supposed to be given to the king, and keeping a nut for yourself or selling it could have resulted in the death penalty. However, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor was able to purchase one of these nuts for 4,000 gold florins. The Dutch Admiral Wolfert Hermanssen also received a nut as a gift for his services, from the Sultan of Bantam in 1602, for fighting the Portuguese and protecting the capital of Bantam. However, the nut that the admiral was given was missing the top part; apparently the Sultan had ordered the top of the nut to be cut off, in order not to upset the noble admirals modesty.
SOLD
 
A fine quality pickled Octopus mounted by Edward Gerrard & sons.
Stock NO. 6523
Size: approx. 22cm x 15.5cm x 10cm
A fine specimen of an octopus, prepared for scientific purposes by the renowned firm of osteologists and taxidermists Edward Gerrard. This firm operated in Camden Town, London and were in a perfect position to have access to creatures that had died in the London Zoo.
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