As it turns out, my previous tidbit on Victorian taxidermy was not totally irrelevant! Thomas Richards mentions taxidermy frogs on display at several points in “The Commodity Culture of Victorian London,” but they achieve their brief side note of fame in parentheses near the end of the essay, here:
“At the Great Exhibition commodities were always sliding from autonomy into solipsism, and each and every commodity had its cult of viewers (the German stuffed frogs were the most prominent of these commodity cults)” (59-60)
There was no further note on them, but I believe the “German stuffed frogs” mentioned here are the frogs of Hermann Ploucquet, who worked as a taxidermist for the Royal Museum in Stuttgart, Wurttemberg, Germany. (Side note: Walter Potter was a teenager at the peak of Ploucquet’s popularity — some sources believe Potter was influenced by his work.)
For a fun look at Ploucquet’s Great Exhibition taxidermy, I highly recommend glancing through http://www.gutenberg.org/files/28508/28508-h/28508-h.htm. “The Comical Creatures from Wurtemberg” is more or less a picture book, illustrating and telling stories to bring Ploucquet’s anthropomorphic taxidermy tableaux to life.
I’ll let one of the reviews speak for itself:
From the Morning Chronicle, August 12th.
“The book is a clever and a pleasant memento of the Great Exhibition. The drawings are careful and clever, and convey a very correct representation of the original creatures, with all, or nearly all, their subtlety of expression and aspect. The capital fatuity of the Rabbits and Hares, the delightful scoundrelism of the Fox, the cunning shrewdness of the Marten and Weasels, the hoyden visages of the Kittens, and the cool, slippery demeanour of the Frogs, are all capitally given. The book may lie on the drawing-room table, or be thumbed in the nursery; and in the latter case we have little doubt that many an urchin still in petticoats will in future years associate his most vivid recollection of the Great Exhibition of 1851 with Mr. Bogue’s perpetuation of the Comical Creatures from Wurtemberg.”
And here is an image and excerpt from”The Frogs Who Would A-Wooing Go” —
“Two frogs, who were cousins, were hopping about together one warm summer’s evening by the side of a rivulet, when they began talking—just as the men will talk—about a young lady-frog who lived in a neighbouring marsh. One extolled the brightness of her eyes, the other praised the beauty of her complexion, and somehow the two frogs found out that they had both fallen in love with the same young lady-froggy. When they had made this discovery they parted rather abruptly, and muttered something, the meaning of which was not very clear.”
For images of actual taxidermized frogs, and other things from the Victorian era, try http://www.taxidermy4cash.com/histo.html. For more on taxidermists at the Great Exhibition of 1851, another link on the same site has a good amount of info: http://www.taxidermy4cash.com/exhibition.html
For the record, collecting pictures of posed dead frogs at 3am on Friday morning to put on a course blog is a bit weird even for me, but there you have it! Enjoy (or something like it) and have a lovely weekend!