Our 11th December Country Pursuits auction includes a large single-owner collection of rural bygones and museum-quality taxidermy from some of the most renowned ‘animal and bird preservers’ of the Victorian era and later.
The collection of over 300 lots was accumulated over the course of several decades by a passionate collector living in the Broadland, and ranges from Edwardian thatching, Victorian veterinary tools, and Georgian cock-fighting spurs, to mask mounts and glazed display cased mounts.
Many of the taxidermy lots date to the so-called ‘Golden Age of Taxidermy’ of the 19th century, including examples by leading naturalist Rowland Ward who opened his Naturalists Zoological Studios in Piccadilly around 1870. Taxidermy at this time was a popular choice for home furnishings and Queen Victoria herself had an impressive collection of preserved birds. Displays at The Great Exhibition of 1851 sparked a national fascination with the works which combined art, science and the contemporary lust for exploration. Other taxidermists of note from this period whose works are represented in the auction are James Gardner (Naturalist to the Royal Family) and John MacPherson of Inverness, whose Sporting Stores stayed in business until the 1970s whereupon Inverness Museum acquired the remaining contents. Local names are also well-represented such as Thomas Edward Gunn and John Alexander Cole, both of Norwich, and William Farren of Cambridge.
The interest in taxidermy and rural effects waned after the Edwardian era, although in areas such as East Anglia, hunting, fishing, and agriculture continued to play a large part in peoples’ lives. However, in recent years there has been a renewed interest in these works and many workshops have opened to preserve beloved pets as well as roadkill and legally hunted specimens. Furthermore, as we hurtle further into the 21st century, more attention is being paid to our rural past and the agricultural way of life.
This is a fascinating collection containing not only excellent examples of the taxidermist’s art, but also a glimpse into a fast-vanishing world. Lots from this collection are marked with an * throughout the catalogue.