Final display for stuffed poor - Mustard comedy magazine
Final display for stuffed poor

Final display for stuffed poor

A stuffed housemaid, chimney-sweep and shoe-shine boy are among the thousands of taxidermied paupers which go under the hammer next week

This rare collection depicts the Victorian underclass in a variety of whimsical scenes, such as a pair of raw-kneed scullery maids scouring the kitchen floor, and a cheeky street urchin mid-pickpocket.

Before the collection goes to auction, it is being exhibited at the Natural History Museum, where adults and children alike will find much enjoyment laughing at black-toothed rag-and-bone men, or gasping at a surgeon sawing off a sailor's ruined foot.

The arrangements are the work of William Sickert (1887–1938). Sickert taught himself human taxidermy as a young man, beginning by stuffing the cadaver of his nanny, of whom he had been fond. After several other staff died of natural causes, he was able to experiment further, developing complex arrangements that were the delight of Victorian society.

In his twenties he produced the masterful Public House, a complex diorama showing a dozen wretches consuming ale, fornicating and urinating on tables and each other.

He then went on to create his most famous work, the heartbreaking Pleb's Wedding, which was exhibited to much acclaim at the 1904 World's Fair.

Another piece in the auction is his controversial 'Spring-Heeled Jack', a horrific creature with diabolical physiognomy and clawed hands, which, on closer inspection, was determined to be created from several human and animal cadavers sewn together.

Bonham's auctioneers expect the collection to fetch at least £100,000, with most of the works ending up hidden away in private collections, continuing the establishment's long tradition of stuffing the proles.

~ A.M.


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