Sunday, November 4, 2012

"I went to the animal fair...

...the birds and the beasts were there." Last week we looked at some striking birds, and today we focus on the beasts. These selections come from Austrian painter Aloys Zötl’s Bestiarium, a series of exquisite watercolors produced from 1831–1887. After his death, his work was taken up by André Breton, who savored what he saw as its surrealist aesthetic: "Lacking any biographical details about the artist, one can only indulge one’s fantasies in imagining the reasons which might have induced this workman from Upper Austria, a dyer by profession, to undertake so zealously ... the elaboration of the most sumptuous bestiary ever seen." This selection includes the Hoolock gibbon, boa, cheetah, lioness, sea turtle, quagga, and walrus.

Craving more snakes, tigers, and whatnot? Check out Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. (He might even throw in a mongoose or two.) Boost your zoological IQ with Animals of the Rainforest Knowledge Cards. Or listen to NPR Sound Treks: Animals: Unforgettable Encounters in the Wild.


  1. Love the detailed backgrounds--the extravagant cactus flower, flamingos and owl, palm tree. and dead native in boat.

    What you call dyer humor I guess.

  2. These are mystical, magical tableaux!

  3. I certainly appreciate the sudden flowering of achievement from an unexpected source. Aloys Zotl seems to have mixed imagination with serious study to create a unique work.
    Speaking of flowers, that is probably not a cactus, but a vine. There is a resemblance to the bunga kantan, but I cannot find an exact match. Is it real, imagined, or a mixture? Someone with knowledge of plants and flowers might be able to let us know, please?

  4. I can't decide which is my favorite! The top two are definitely the walrus and the turtle. These are all done in such beautiful detail, and I would love to just have these all around the house as wall art.

    My favorite part about the walrus is that it's tail is composed of claws. He/she certainly looks ready for a fight.

  5. The Quagga Project is trying to reverse the species' extinct status by selectively breeding zebras with quagga characteristics. They have successfully bred an animal that looks like the quagga in the illustration.
    Maybe one day extinction will be a curable condition!

    1. In a previous blog post, the quagga was featured in an antique children's ABC.
      Thanks for sharing your hopeful information re its resurgence.