Antiques Column: It's still life - taxidermy is compelling

Preserving animals in various forms has been practiced since the Egyptians buried embalmed cats with their mummies.

Sunday, 12th March 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:08 am

Later explorers, pursued by science and Charles Darwin, bought home species upon species all tamed and categorised to educate the voyeur.

The fearless, aristocratic hunter followed, stuffing his prized trophies for the country estate whilst all the very best museums displayed creatures from the far ends of the earth to the gasping Victorian crowds.

These same museums, only a generation or two later, offloaded their vast, obsolete collections to their final funeral and the rest lie boxed and moth balled in dusty wooden drawers, their exhibits replaced by interactive touch screens.

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Today, although not to everyone’s taste, for art and fascination’s sake there are plenty who would indulge and for whom catching the beady eye of a mounted piece is just too much to resist.

As living creatures are indeed a mystery, so are their preserved counterparts and many an interior designer adorns their own creative masterpieces with a majestic pair of antlers or an eye-catching bird filled glass dome.

For the collector there is an undoubtable appreciation of the expertise of the maker, where for the lay-purchaser perhaps it is merely eerily compelling, a connection with the once-upon- a-time, or maybe just the desire for a pet-friend with a low price tag for upkeep.

Even the moth eaten and over pawed bear mascot of Sheffield’s City Museum retains its charm, if nothing else, in the resounding years it has stood its ground when all else around has changed.

Whatever the interest, taxidermy is always an eye opener and can be found holding court to Staffordshire dogs in many a quiet corner of the antique quarter.

Waiting for destiny to take its course and bring it home....