One-shot #34: Penguins (having run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible)

After Sunday’s depressing double-feature on the German invasion of Poland, I figured it’s Penguin Time. Penguins make me happy. And they should make you happy too, because penguins are awesome. On my second birthday with my then-girlfriend-now-wife, she surprised me with a trip to visit Opus – a Humboldt at the Niagara Falls Aquarium. For anybody who can make it out there, it’s well worth the trip.

But perhaps some of the morbidity from Sunday’s dark anniversary remains like a cloud over the blog. Because there’s a catch. Today’s specimens – which from the header image might appear to be happily playing – are taxidermy. These penguins are no more! They’ve ceased to be! They’ve expired, and gone to meet their maker! Bereft of life, they rest in peace!

These… are EX-PENGUINS!

An image depicting a number of taxidermic penguins in a glass enclosure, Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, Paris.
Glass diapositive stereoview from the Galerie de Zoologie in Paris, France. Unknown manufacturer and photographer, 6×13 cm plate. Late 19th/early 20th century.

Monty Python references aside, this is an excellent stereoview from an amazing collection featuring the Galerie de Zoologie (now the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution) prior to the Great War. And sadly, the only one from the collection (which included some amazing interior views, elephants, oceanic specimens, and so on) that I purchased. The seller was asking €10 per, and was inflexible. While I’m guessing that these are fairly rare, and possibly worth the asking price, I only bought the one. And only because it features the best animals ever.

An exact identification of the penguins in question is difficult due to the dual factors of their taxidermic state and their monochromatic portrayal. My first thought was Little Blues – this makes sense except for their skinniness. But the taxidermist mightn’t have stuffed them full enough. They could also be Yellow Eyed if the artist took liberties with… their eyes. I’m not going to come down decisively on this. There isn’t enough information available. And I doubt that these specimens still exist – from a “behind the scenes” tour of the AMNH, I found out exactly how difficult it is to maintain aging taxidermy.

However, I can come down on the quality of the stereography here – it’s excellent. There are great stereo anchors. There’s strong use of depth, with the penguins right in the middle. There’s even strong DOF – highlighting the subject. The slightly amber-tinted glass gives a very pleasing effect. Stuffed or no, these penguins are a delight to look at. Especially since the taxidermy is so believable, and remembering that this exhibit was likely the only way for a Parisian to see a penguin.


Anaglyph of Grande Galerie de l’Évolution Penguins.

Leave a Reply