Put something under a cloche and suddenly its importance is elevated. Perhaps the glass dome signals to us that it houses something special or precious. We look more closely. We examine with interest. We expect to be fascinated. Perhaps this is why I have a collection of cloches in different sizes. From the very smallest at less than an inch, to the largest at over a foot, they magnify the significance of their capture.
The Victorians were fond of cloches too and often displayed their cherished taxidermy under these glass domes. Partial to nature, the Victorians collected butterflies, insects and flowers. The finishing touch on a Victorian parlor was the presence of a mounted animal. It might be a fox with a cautious look or a badger on its hind legs. Birds captured under glass were a popular motif along with cascading butterflies perched on dried flowers.
On the slightly freakish side there was “rogue taxidermy.” Mostly seen in sideshows, these creations boasted baby dragons, mermaids and unicorns to entertain and fool the public. Two headed lambs and six legged cats might also share the stage.
There was also “anthropomorphic taxidermy.” Animals were dressed up and posed performing human activities. The most famous man in this category was an English taxidermist named Walter Potter (1835-1918). He fashioned entire scenes that told a story. Some of his dioramas
included kittens at a tea party, rabbit school house and guinea pigs playing cricket. But Potter’s most famous scene is an elaborate tableau called “The Death and Burial of Cock Robin.” It depicts the famous nursery rhyme “Who Killed Cock Robin?” All of his scenes have amazing and precise detail that draws you into his imaginative world. These whimsical tableaus were once housed in a museum but were later auctioned off to private collectors.
My cloche is taxidermy free. Instead, I used a German candy container by Ino Schaller in the form of an owl to imitate a real one. I think he is appropriate for fall. To add a little more interest I added mushrooms, moss and orange butterflies. It doesn’t shout that it is a “fall display” it just gently nudges you that the seasons are in motion and summer is disappearing. It is also a tribute to the talented Victorians who so creatively integrated their fascination with nature into interior design.