When I first posted about art works using squirrels (I also included my own!) I was ignorant of a long history of squirrels being featured in art work, of humans’ obsessions with these little animals and keeping then as pets. Just when you think you might have stumbled on what I thought was a relatively un-mined subject matter, history again lets one know- there is nothing new!
A few Images from Art History showing squirrels as pets.
A detail from the 4th century Luttrell Psalter, shows n image of a woman playing with a pet squirrel, British Library.
A floor tile 1290-1300 (circa) shows a woman wearing a coronet and with her pet squirrel. British Museum, Chertsey tiles: Queens Panel
created 1526-1528. Hans Holbein the Younger.
National Gallery London
Detail of Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel , about 1565. Attributed to Francesco Montemezzano,
I am grateful to the Broider Me ‘Bethan ( cannot get the web site link to work!)
and to Rosalie’s Medieval Woman https://rosaliegilbert.com/petkeeping.html for pointing me in the direction of some of these images.
The practice of keeping squirrels as “pets” and exploiting these creatures far beyond simply drawing and capturing their images has carried. In searching for squirrels in art I have come across numerous internet sites and videos featuring small furry animals, in particular squirrels. For the most part these sites are about showing, making, and selling images, sculptures and toys. But in 2018 there are sites engaged in the selling of various breeds of these creatures for pets.
After thousands of years of domestication dogs and cats to some extent may trust we humans and tolerate our behaviour towards them in return for food and shelter, but for wild animals it must be very difficult to make us understand what they find intrusive and unacceptable – but of course they can always bite us!
In the UK the grey squirrel is considered a pest, as it has threatened the survival of the indigenous red squirrel. For me there is a dissonance regarding concern for these animals’ natural behaviour and welfare and the action being taken in parts of the country to eliminate them. Not one I can resolve.
One well documented and famous 20th century story about humans making pets of squirrels is that of squirrel Tommy Tucker.
In the 1940s an orphaned squirrel was adopted by Zaidee Bullis in Washington. She named the squirrel Tommy Tucker and he became celebrated in America after an article about him appeared in Life Magazine along with a series of photos by Nina Leen (Time & Life Pictures/Getty ) showing Tommy wearing the different costumes made for him. Below are two examples.
There are many current examples in on-line videos of such treatment of small animals. While some of us use drawing and painting to create our fantasies about animals perhaps some humans take it all too far with trying to turn their fantasies of these animals into reality.