Wonderful Life: A Celebration of Animals in European Art (Part 2)

Statue of Pegasus on Milan Stazione Centrale Train Station

Continued from Part 1


Symbolic and Decorative Animals

The more I looked, the more I saw. Countless times I saw it in Christian religious art, where the four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are typically depicted, respectively, as a divine man, a winged lion, a winged ox, and an eagle. Clustered on the roof of the Croatian National State Archives building in Zagreb I noticed a parliament of Croatian owls, symbols of wisdom. And in Florence I met Il Porcellino (“the Piglet”), Baroque master Pietro Tacca’s popular boar fountain, sculpted in 1634 and situated now in the city’s Mercato Nuovo. Visitors traditionally put a coin into the boar’s jaws for good luck and then rub its snout to ensure a return to Florence. As a result, the snout always has a polished sheen, while the rest of its body remains a patinated brownish-green. (Of course, I rubbed its snout like there was no tomorrow!) Continue reading “Wonderful Life: A Celebration of Animals in European Art (Part 2)”

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Wonderful Life: A Celebration of Animals in European Art (Part 1)

Pigeon resting in cornice, Milan

Guest Blog by Frank Weaver


‘I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.’

— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself, 32” (from Leaves of Grass)


As we enter this season of “Peace on Earth, good will toward men,” it is worthwhile to be reminded that in this deeply conflicted world, while there may be many things that divide people—borders, currency, language, religion, politics—there are many more things that unite us in harmony. One of those unifying principles is our common relationship with animals: not merely as food or pets or helpmates, but in the simple awe and affection they have always inspired in the human psyche. It is a sentiment that stretches not only across great geographical distances but across the vast chasm of time itself.

The Little Hunt
A well-preserved mosaic excavated at the 4th-century Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily, Italy, showing hunters with their dogs capturing a variety of game. (Source)
Continue reading “Wonderful Life: A Celebration of Animals in European Art (Part 1)”

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Oscars for Animals

Cat on movie screen

The paparazzi have gone home, the red carpet has been rolled up, and the tuxes and gorgeous gowns have been stowed away till next year. Now that last Sunday’s Academy Awards extravaganza is over, we turn our attention to the films that really matter—the ones about the domesticated animals we share our lives with!

(Note: Countless wonderful films featuring animals have been made over the years. The following nominees and winners were selected in an entirely subjective manner involving no voting or independent tabulation whatsoever.)

Continue reading “Oscars for Animals”
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Beach Reading for Animal Lovers

Beach book

At long last summer has arrived, July Fourth is just around the corner, and temps are rising to unbearable levels. Time to break out the bathing suits and beach towels! And don’t forget to pack a book or two…or seven. Herewith we present a full week’s worth of vacation reading for you fans of our furry friends (including dogs, cats, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and more) to enjoy while you soak up the sun.

(Click on a book’s cover image to view editions available from Amazon.)
Continue reading “Beach Reading for Animal Lovers”

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The Animals of Halloween

Full moon on a cloudy night

Meet Our Favorite Creatures of the Night

When people think of Halloween, they usually picture pumpkins, bags bursting with candy, and hordes of kids roaming the streets in cute costumes. They also imagine witches, ghosts, ghouls, and all manner of creepy, crawly things guaranteed to make one’s hair stand on end.

This darker side of Halloween stems from its earliest pagan roots, particularly the ancient Celtic festival of Samain. That word in Old Irish literally means “summer’s end,” the season which ushers in the darker half of the year, with its longer, colder nights and gray, lifeless landscapes. For our pagan ancestors, this was a transitional time of year, full of magic and mystery, when the boundary between the world of the living and that of the fearful spirit world was at its thinnest. Thus, occasionally, those creatures of the gloomy Otherworld—deities and demons, ghosts and fairies—would more easily be able to cross over and dwell among us.

Over the centuries other folklores and superstitions attached themselves to present-day Halloween customs, so that now we have quite a menagerie of seemingly monstrous beings to contend with when October 31 rolls around—including certain real-world animals.

Granted, all animals are beautiful in their own way. However, the appearance and behavior of some of these animals lend themselves perfectly to the eerie atmosphere that Halloween inspires. Here are the most popular ones, with a little explanation as to why and how they became associated with Halloween. Continue reading “The Animals of Halloween”

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A Menagerie of Beastly Phrases

Royal Menagerie - Museum of London
An engraving depicting animals from the Royal Menagerie at Exeter Change in the Strand. [Source © Museum of London]
Now that the dog days of August are long past and the evenings have started to get ever so nippy, we at Ketchum…wait—dog days? What does that even mean? What do dogs have to do with August? Curious, we looked it up; and in the process discovered a slew of other interesting animal-related idioms commonly in use in the English-speaking world. Herewith—our favorites. Continue reading “A Menagerie of Beastly Phrases”

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An April Bestiary in Verse

Poetry books

Celebrating Animals for National Poetry Month

Throughout our short but spectacular history, we of the bipedal mammalian species known as Home sapiens have been utterly fascinated by our quadruped cousins in the Animal Kingdom (not to mention our finny friends and wingèd companions on this Earth). For centuries we have written learned books about them, recounted their exploits in ancient fables and folk tales, celebrated them in song, drawn their figures on cave walls and canvas, and we began photographing them relentlessly almost as soon as the camera was invented.

And, it goes without saying, we have composed countless poems about them. The sheer volume of poetry dedicated to our fellow creatures—all manner of flesh, fish, and fowl, from monkeys to microbes, from the common to the exotic, limbless and many-limbed, the living and the extinct, and all inhabiting every corner of this amazing terraqueous globe of ours—is daunting, to say the least. Where to start?

This April, to celebrate National Poetry Month, Ketchum Mfg. Co. showcases just a few of our favorites among the most famous poems about our brother animals—both wild and domestic. Continue reading “An April Bestiary in Verse”

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