A rare Victorian taxidermy anthropomorphic diorama of red squirrels playing cards could make up to £5,500 in a North Yorkshire auctioneers live online sale next week.
The Victorian taste for anthropomorphic taxidermy showing quirky portrayals of life have become increasingly sought-after at auction in recent years, and the diorama in Tennants‘ Natural History and Taxidermy Sale will see it estimated at £3,500 to £5,500.
Made circa 1870-1900, the squirrels are found posed in a lavishly furnished interior. Four of the creatures are gathered around a pedestal dining table playing cards, complete with a decanter and glasses, cigars and a cribbage board, while the two further squirrels to the right feature one relaxing upon a chaise longue with cigar in hand, and the other standing in conversation with cigar in hand.
Reputedly this diorama came into the current family’s possession in lieu of a previous debt owed to their grandfather; it has remained in the same family since the early part of the 20th century and has never before been available on the open auction market.
Tennants’ specialist Robbie Bright commented: “This is an exceptional example of anthropomorphic taxidermy. The workmanship is impressive, and the interesting provenance adds something extra special to the lot. It is not often that collectors get an opportunity like this.”
The auction will also feature other anthropomorphic examples, such as mice shooting and fishing. Elsewhere in the sale there are antique and modern high-quality taxidermy birds and animals, a private collection of cased British animals by James Hutchings of Aberystwyth, a superb collection of unusual world birds from the Peter Farrington collection and a small collection of cased fish by John Cooper and W.F. Homer.
The sale takes place on June 19.