Tipu’s (or Tippoo’s) Tiger is a life-sized wooden mechanical organ made around 1793, depicting a tiger mauling a man in European clothing. When the crank is turned, a hidden mechanism causes the man’s arm to goes up and down, and plays his wails of agony along the growls of the tiger. Under a flap on the tiger’s body there is also a small pipe organ, which can play 18 notes.
When I was a kid, my weird and wonderful mother used to amuse us by picking up the cat and pretending to play it like a bagpipe, using its tail as a mouthpiece. Her improvised feline instrument has, sadly, been upstaged by my discovery of the Katzenklavier, a Cat-Piano (also known as a cat organ) dreamed up in the 16th century.
This very rare doll from the early nineteenth century demonstrates a very innovative design for its day: a wheel of legs which allow the doll to ‘walk’ when it is pushed across the floor. The doll would have originally been costumed in a long dress to hide the leg mechanism, so only two walking feet would have shown at a time. The value of this remarkable hand-carved doll, with its enamel eyes, coiled chignon, jointed arms and delicately painted features, […]
I know very little about these wonderful objects, but Obsolete, a combination antiques shop and contemporary art gallery in Venice, California, claims that they are World War Two parachute crash test dummies. The images are taken from Obsolete’s Facebook page, where it also says each dummy weighs up to 225lbs. I’d love to know more about these splendid models and their history, but information is surprisingly scarce. Here is a great history of the parachute, for example, but there is […]
My last post on the inflatable skins in James Lomax’s Untitled (Me and My Friend) (2011) reminded me of this ridiculously interesting series of photographs from the archives of the American Museum of Natural History. Taken between 1933-1935 by Thane L. Bierwert, they show museum staff engaged in the task of cleaning and re-mounting the skin of an elephant for display. As well as offering a great (and I suspect rare) behind-the-scenes glance of a 1930s natural history museum, that […]
These three intriguing photographs have no real relationship with one another, except that each image reveals a little bit of the hidden history of art. Read on for more about these remarkable images. Picasso wearing a ‘cow head mask’, 1949 The first image is a light-hearted 1949 photograph of Pablo Picasso on a French beach, wearing what is described as a cow’s head mask. However, I believe that the image is mislabeled and that he is actually modelling a bull’s […]