famous taxidermists

Martha Maxwell (1831-1881)

Martha Maxwell was one of the first known women to collect and preserve her own fur. She was born in Pennsylvania but moved to the Colorado Territory in the 1860s, during the first wave of the Pike’e Peak Gold Rush, where she became an accomplished hunter. Inspired by the work of a local taxidermist, she began skinning animals for artistic pursuits. Interestingly, Maxwell was a vegetarian for her entire life.

As a self-taught naturalist and artist, Maxwell’s work helped found modern taxidermy and forever changed the face of natural history museums. In 1868 he opened a museum in Boulder and also displayed his preserved animals and birds at both the Colorado Agricultural Society Fair in Denver and the American Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia.

Maxwell’s owl (Otus asio maxwelliae) is named after Martha Maxwell. She was the first woman to have a subspecies named after her.

The Van Ingen brothers

Van Ingen & Van Ingen was an Indian company specializing in taxidermy. During its heyday, it was run by the three Botha brothers, De Wet and Joubert Van Ingen, who were trained by their father Eugene Van Ingen, founder of the taxidermy firm. The Van Ingens lived and worked in Mysore, Karnatak, in the southern part of India, and became famous for their head mounts, full mounts, flat animal rugs, and rug mounts with heads attached. In 2004, author Pat Morris interviewed the 92-year-old Joubert for the book “Van Ingen & Van Ingen – Artists in Taxidermy.” Joubert is the last survivor of the three brothers.

The Van Ingen brothers preserved famous shikhar hunting trophies in royal poses for the maharajas of India. His work was considered incomparable to any other taxidermist in the world. The family mainly worked with tigers, leopards and bears and their book “The Preservation of Shikar Trophies, Taxidermy Artists, Mysore” is considered an important source of information on the abundance of wild leopards and tigers once found in the nature.

The company was active from the beginning of the last century until 1998.

Louis Dufresne (1752-1832)

Louis Dufresne was one of the naturalists who traveled on the Astrolabe ship on its extraordinary voyage. The ship first sailed to Madeira, Tenerife, Trinidad and the coast of Brazil. He then rounded Cape Horn and landed at Concepción and the Sandwich Islands. The journey continued along the north coast of the Americas until reaching Alaska. After visiting Monterey, the expedition crossed the Pacific and landed in Macao, China. Finally, the ship returned to France with abundant knowledge.

In 1793, Dufresne began working as a taxidermist and curator at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris. In the early 19th century, he popularized the use of arsenic soap to preserve birds, a technique that had enabled the museum to build the world’s largest collection of birds.

Dufresne also maintained a private collection. By 1818, he had collected approximately 1,600 bird specimens, 800 eggs from around the world, and 12,000 insects. The collection also included many shells, fossils, corals, and amphibians. Today, this collection is part of the Royal Scottish Museum, after being acquired by the University of Edinburgh in 1819.

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