About Me

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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Saturday, September 30, 2017

the museum of ordinary animals

thanks pixabay
"The boring beasts that changed the world," runs the subtitle of this exhibit at London's Grant Museum of Zoology.  Think of it: when's the last time you visited a natural history museum and saw a chicken?  A dog?  Even (and this was a hotly contested inclusion, it seems) frogs? 
Why would you need to go to a museum to see these critters when they're everywhere around you?  The answer isn't so much about seeing as rethinking.  The Grant Museum's doing the natural-science version of what I do here at The Pet Museum: examining the impacts they have had on our world and our cultures.  Upcoming discussions, if you're lucky enough to be over on that side, are: "Is It OK to be a Cat Guy?" "Rats," and "Cats Broke the Internet."
Atlas Obscura has a bit more on it here.  (A word of warning: Nature science means specimens.  There are skulls, mummies, a preserved kitten.)

Friday, September 29, 2017

in which i treat myself to a tiger for friday

hathitrust.org has source as PD
As longtime readers of the Museum know, every so often, your friendly Curator caves in to her forbidden craving . . . to have a tiger.  This fellow is found on page 3 of "Bennie and the Tiger," a moral tale of innocence (Bennie, all of three years old and temporarily unwatched by his nanny) protected by faith from the forces of evil (the Tiger, getting the usual bad rap).
Can't see the fierce majesty?  Tigerhance:




 -- Dean & Son. Bennie And the Tiger. London: Dean & Son, 11, Ludgate Hill, 1857-1865.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

wordless vintage wednesday redux

i'm back to pre-used ones!
some longtime readers may remember the series
that started here

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

a windswept papillon

image copyright and courtesy of the artist
Small dog, big presence:  this papillion by Massachusetts artist Melody Lea Lamb gazes into the wind, alert yet calm.  He's present in the moment, as dogs know so well how to be.  The original of this piece was done in colored pencil and India ink, and all of 3.5 x 2.5 inches.  The careful rendering of the fur, and overall realism of the approach, has been so skilfully handled that it doesn't overwhelm the small space of the portrait.  At Lamb's Etsy shop you can see many more of these tiny works as well as ones a bit bigger.  I was drawn to the simple, jewel-toned immediacy of this one.
Melody Lea Lamb's website is full of even more of these detailed, bright works, and I am sure they will delight you.

Monday, September 25, 2017

great lords and dogs - proverbs of serbia

From a book of Serbian proverbs published in 1915:


  • Feed your horse like a brother, but ride him like an enemy.
  • A frog saw the horse being shod and lifted up his foot also.
  • Hungry hounds make good hunting.
  • The barking of young dogs is carried away by the wind.
  • Great lords and dogs do not close the door behind them.
  • Be on the watch when an old dog barks.
  • Crop a dog's ears he remains a dog; dock his tail he is a dog still.
  • Dogs howl round empty churches.
  • If dogs had their way there would be no horses.

. . . and I have to throw this one in, though it's got nothing to do with critters:

  • Give the priest what is the priest's, and the king what is the king's, and then flee.

 -- Turner, K. Amy. National Proverbs: Serbia. London: C. Palmer and Hayward, 1915.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

a brave dog in a children's book, 1843

public domain scan from hathitrust.org

No clue who Bose is, or whose dog.  He simply appears on the last page of a little children's book published in New Hampshire 150 years ago, for no apparent reason than to be an object lesson. 

Bogert, J. Augustus., Eastman, H., Merrill, R. (1843-1854). Stories about dogs. Concord, N.H.: Rufus Merrill.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

a 14th century cat door

art.thewalters.org CC0 license
The 14th-century French cat that used this kitty door must have been a scrawny, hardworking petit chat indeed.  This fine example of feline ingress (and egress, and ingress - do cats go in and out as much when they are calling the shots?) is found at this page of the the Walters Art Museum.  There you'll find that while not many examples of cat doors have survived from the Middle Ages, no less a source than Geoffrey Chaucer mentions one in "The Miller's Tale."  There's also one at Manchester, England's Chetham Library, in a door dating from 1421.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

vintage wordless wednesday

a new one finally!  bought in astoria 9-16-17

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

elegant yarns in five colors


(PD, CC:0)
"Elegant yarns in five colors." That's the literal translation from the German title of this work as found at the Museum fur Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg: "Elegante Garne in funf Farben."  That must be what Utagawa Toyokuni I (Japanese, 1769-1825) has shown piled up there in the left hand corner of this woodblock print.  Really it seems to be a gambit for showing this willowy beauty in her barefoot relaxation, her bright robes falling away in patterned layers.  Then, of course, we have a sassy black and white kitten in the mix, who doesn't want to be held right now and doesn't care if she takes a few of those nice robes with her!  She's probably headed for that elegant yarn, you know.

Monday, September 18, 2017

member of the wedding


Your friendly Curator was off on a weekend full of art openings (one) and lovely wedding celebrations (two).  At the first wedding, there were groomsmen, bridesmaids...and a groomsdog and bridesdog.  Up above, a reflective snap taken after the ceremony, as the bridesdog reflects upon Life and Happily Ever After, or perhaps simply didn't feel like getting up.
(Brides)doghance...

Friday, September 15, 2017

a saint bernard for showing off

Rug - Saint Bernard dog, circa 1885, Wellington, by Mary Hannah Tyer.
Bequest of Mrs Mary H. Quin, 1956. 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (PC000250/1)
Be sure to click on the image above and see if you can get a better look at this rug.  Meticulously crafted in 1885, it has a high level of detail - the dog even has a glass bead for its eye.  You won't be surprised that this lovely object was called out for special praise at the 1885 New Zealand Industrial Exhibition.  You may be surprised that this was crafted by a teenager: 15-year-old Mary Tyer.
There's an interesting larger history about this rug; its creation was encouraged by a government that believed in the creativity of New Zealanders both inside and outside the home.  Read an enjoyable essay on Mary, her rug, and the Industrial Exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand) here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

wordless vintage wednesday redux

another rerun from the collection

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

how to bet on a cat and win

thanks pixabay (PD)
From Charles H. Ross's curious collection of cat stories (1868): a story, very likely apocryphal, on how to bet on cats and win.
It is stated in a Japanese book that the tip of a Cat's nose is always cold, except on the day corresponding with our Midsummer-day. This is a question I cannot say I have gone into deeply. I know, however, that Cats always have a warm nose when they first awaken from sleep. All Cats are fond of warmth. I knew one which used to open an oven door after the kitchen fire was out, and creep into the oven. One day the servant shut the door, not noticing the Cat was inside, and lighted the fire. For a long while she could not make out whence came the sounds of its crying and scratching, but fortunately made the discovery in time to save its life. A Cat's love of the sunshine is well known, and perhaps this story may not be unfamiliar to the reader :—
One broiling hot summer's day Charles James Fox and the Prince of Wales were lounging up St. James's street, and Fox laid the Prince a wager that he would see more Cats than his Royal Highness during their promenade, although the Prince might choose which side of the street he thought fit. On reaching Piccadilly, it turned out that Fox had seen thirteen Cats and the Prince none. The Prince asked for an explanation of this apparent miracle.
"Your Royal Highness," said Fox, "chose, of course, the shady side of the way as most agreeable. I knew that the sunny side would be left for me, and that Cats prefer the sunshine."
Ross, C. H. 1842?-1897. (1868). The book of cats: a chit-chat chronicle of feline facts and fancies, legendary, lyrical, medical, mirthful and miscellaneous. London, England: Griffith and Farran. 61-2.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

riotous drapery

yale university art gallery (PD)
Around 1720-30 some nameless artist created this oil portrait of "A Hudson Valley Lady with Dog and Parrot."  There's a charming primitive feel to this work, though drapery was definitely the painter's strong point.  Stop and look at how that pink wrap is so animated it's practically a player in and of itself.  Now we're going to see the parrot. . .


Sort of pigeon-y, this parrot, but I like him.  Speaking of animated. . .


. . .that dog has been caught in mid-flail, wanting that parrot so badly.  What a charming, funny scene.  Whomever the lost painter might have been, I hope he (or she!) enjoyed the work.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

vintage wordless wednesday redux

that's right, another rerun from the collection :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

asante proverbs: a dog's thoughts lie in his chest

Yesterday I mentioned that I wanted to share some Asante proverbs with you.  Here's some from a collection originally published in 1879.
***
The dog which has gone a hunting has not had any luck, so what can the cat (hope to) do?

When your dog says he will catch an elephant for you, he is deceiving you.

A dog's thoughts lie in his chest, but not in his head. (That is, he is always barking (talking) and never keeps anything to himself.)

If you take a dog (i.e. a quarrelsome, noisy person) as a relation, tears will never dry in your eyes.

The dog has a proverb which runs, 'A big thing does not get lost'.

Had the cat only some one to help it, it would be sharper even than the dog.

No one teaches a cat how to look into a calabash.

Even if the mouse were the size of a cow, he would be the cat's slave nevertheless.

All animals sweat, but the hair on them causes us not to notice it. - The saying is used in the sense that a rich or powerful man can bear losses or troubles better than a poor one, though both may equally have their worries.
***
-- from Rattray, R. S. 1881-1938. Ashanti Proverbs: the Primitive Ethics of a Savage People. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1916. 87-94 passim.  What an awful title.

Monday, September 04, 2017

a foolish mouse, a cat's back

Designated Purchase Fund and Carll H. de Silver Fund, www.brooklynmuseum.org. PD
This is the top, or finial, of a staff created sometime in the 20th century. (You can see more photos of it here at the Brookyn Museum's website.)  It was carried by a particular sort of royal official among the Fante culture of Ghana and the Ivory Coast of Africa.  When I tell you that the official was known as an okyeame - a "linguist," that is, a king's spokesman - you won't be surprised to learn that this small scene illustrates a proverb, as linguist staffs of that period often did.  We're looking at a cat with a mouse climbing onto its back, which is a bad move for any mouse anywhere I'd imagine.  That's borne out by the matching proverb: "It is only a foolish mouse that tries to get into the cat's bag," or, lesser people shouldn't dare to mess with royal business.
Here's another okyeame staff at the Art Institute of Chicago which illustrates the proverb "The hen knows when it is dawn, but leaves it to the rooster to announce.”  Fante culture was found within the greater context of Asante civilization, and Asante visual art has a lot of interplay with its verbal arts.  Their proverbs are fascinating and vivid.  I'll share some more with you tomorrow.


Sunday, September 03, 2017

a dog watches over words


public domain, courtesy of the british library. link to page here
This floppy-eared boy lies in watch over one page of a Dutch Book of Hours dating c. 1420 and very likely belonging to a nun.  He shares duty with a dragon, so he's not too worried.

From the British Library, below:
Book of Hours, with the Hours of the Virgin, the Short Hours of the Holy Cross, Prayers and Suffrages (ff. 8-179v), imperfect. Netherlands, N. (Utrecht or Guelders), c. 1420, Dutch, by The Master of the Morgan Infancy Cycle. Full digital coverage available for this manuscript: see Digitised Manuscripts at http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts.



Friday, September 01, 2017

cat and mouse, with a twist

Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, www.brooklynmuseum.org (CC-BY)
Is it difficult to think that ancient people had a sense of humor?  The Egyptians certainly did, which isn't a surprising trait in such a rational and life-affirming civilization.  Here's a sketch to prove it:  a cat - note its lovely dotted coat, typical of an Egyptian Mau - offers goodies to an imperious mouse.  Wait, what? (There's more on the object record page at the Brooklyn Museum's site.)  It's sketched on an ostracon, which is a scrap of pottery or stone  used for notes or sketching; much cheaper than papyrus for tomfoolery.  Date on this funny scene? Around 1295-1075 B.C.E.