Framed Insect Taxidermy
The art of taxidermy (the process of preserving and mounting natural specimens for the purpose of study and/or display), or in the case of insects “pinning,” became incredibly popular in the Victorian era as increasing urbanization alongside the Industrial Revolution prompted greater study of and admiration for the natural world. Following its presence at the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London, professionals and hobbyists took up taxidermy as a means of preserving nature, displaying wealth and knowledge, and showcasing an age of discovery and collecting (as part of colonialism), from public institutions to the domestic sphere. The objects of the Victorian home were intimately connected with the lives and perceptions of their inhabitants: the home served as both a keeper of personal stories and memory, and an outward performance of curated ideas, values, and reflections on social issues. Coupled with new aesthetic interests and rising incomes, taxidermied specimens brought nature and the outside world into private life in a controlled way, i.e.,framed in a glass case or displayed on one’s mantle. Alternatively, entomological attire became popular in late Victorian Europe by incorporating small creatures and insects into personal adornment. The electric green beetles seen in this collection were commonly worn as necklaces, pins, or incorporated into embroidery. Similarly, moth and butterfly wings decorated hats and were sewn into intricate lace. This delicate collection of vibrant specimens pinned to a neutral white backing, combines art and science in an attractive and symmetrical arrangement sure to grab anyone’s attention.
At this time in England, noted biologist and naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) first published the book On the Origin of Species on November 4, 1859. This text is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Within the book, Darwin introduced the concepts of population evolution over generations, natural selection, and common ancestry between species. The book was written for a non-specialist audience, and attracted a widespread audience, selling out almost immediately upon publication, and becoming an international bestseller shortly afterwards.