The Return of the Arab Courier:
(Above) The Camel Driver Attacked by Lions is one of the most popular exhibits in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Originally called "Lion Attacking Arab Courier" in the 1860s, it dramatizes a desert scene that could have occurred during the centuries before the Barbary lion became extinct--but the clothing, harness and weapons are from the 19th century.
(Right) At the age of 60, French taxidermist Jules Verreaux designed this exhibit for the Paris Exposition of 1867. In this age of computers and the internet, this group is the one specific group mentioned on the online Encarta Encyclopedia for "taxidermy" and "history" links.
Arab courier attacked by lions is the most dynamic and best known piece of taxidermy ever created by French naturalist and taxidermist Jules Verreaux. At the age of 60, Verreaux designed this extraordinary exhibit for the Paris Exposition of 1867, where it was awarded a gold medal. His aim was to portray life in motion and to stir the emotions of viewers--an aim very different from that of other taxidermists of his time. His Arab Courier is widely regarded as "the most ambitious attempt of its day"1 and "represents one of the earliest achievements in the development of the group concept of animal exhibition."2 It inspired highly theatrical exhibits by other European taxidermists who also depicted the age-old struggles between beasts, or between beasts and humans.
The Arab Courier group, like other works produced by Jules Verreaux and his younger brothers, Edouard and Alexis, was prepared at the Maison Verreaux, a family owned natural history emporium of worldwide renown. His Arab Courier features a now extinct subspecies of lion, the Barbary lion, which was gradually eliminated from its North African realm by expanding human settlement in the Sahara and coastal regions of North Africa.
The "Barbary" region, on the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean, was historically occupied by the "Berbers" in the second millennium B.C. After falling to the Arabs in the seventh century A.D. and a thousand years of Arab control, it was, by the 19th century, under European colonial influence, and included such states as Algeria, Tunisia, Tripoli and Morocco. France, as a leading colonial nation, dominated Algeria by mid-century. At the time of the Paris Exposition of 1867, it was a logical nation to interpret the natural history of the region to the scientific world and the general public.
Jules Verreaux, despite the now-antiquated taxidermic methods and materials at his disposal, managed to impart an extraordinarily lifelike quality to his work. This ability was in part attributable to the depth of his understanding about the...
...Continued in the Fall 2001 Issue of Breakthrough.
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