In what is probably New York’s strangest museum, the Morbid Anatomy Museum features exhibits centered on the theme of death. Their latest exhibit, Taxidermy: Art, Science & Immortality Featuring Walter Potter’s Kittens’ Wedding, is dark to say the least. Two preserved kittens, dressed in formal wedding attire, stand face-to-face, as if to exchange vows.
The Kittens’ Wedding was created by Walter Potter circa 1890. The British Victorian taxidermist was known for taking small animals such as kittens, bunnies, and squirrels and posing them in human scenarios. One of his pieces, titled Gambling Squirrels, features two squirrels sitting across the table from one another. One puffs on a pipe. The other holds a deck of cards.
But for as macabre as it sounds, taxidermy is actually fairly common. The practice dates back to ancient Egypt, where cats, crocodiles, and even humans were mummified as part of sacred rituals. But in recent years, taxidermy has evolved to become an art-of-science, so to speak. In 19th century England, for example, there was a spike in the demand for preserved animals. During this time, the upper class equated taxidermy with the study of anatomy, which was a highly revered subject. Preserved animals were a symbol of intelligence, wealth, and social status.
But Potter was the first taxidermist to turn this practice into an art. His anthropomorphic style became the focus of much debate. In what many would describe as being a cruel and inhumane practice, others would describe as being a thought-provoking reflection on the historical relationship between humans and animals. It’s definitely an exhibit that challenges visitors to have an open mind.
Taxidermy: Art, Science & Immortality Featuring Walter Potter’s Kittens’ Wedding opened on September 1 and is running through November 6, 2016.
Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. Children 12 and under are free. Admission includes entry into the museum’s library, which has a wide collection of books, photographs, drawings, paintings, and artifacts related to anatomy and taxidermy.