November 3rd, 2017
Daisy Fried, Ippopotamo
Text: Women's Poetry: Poems And AdviceReproduced by permission of the author.
assisted readymade, La Specola, Florence
You are looking to a specimen
whose exact age is unknown,
but it must be ca. 300 years old
as it probably lived in the Boboli Gardens
during the reign of Cosimo III de' Medici
It is still visible the mark of the rope,
the sign of its captivity[i],
around its neck.
The hippopotamus is reported
in the Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti's[ii] catalogue,
compiled in 1763, and it is almost certainly
one of the oldest specimens
displayed in the Museum.
Its age is also revealed
by the clumsy execution[iii]
of the stuffing and mounting,
and through the animal's expression.
It was likely not observed alive
as the legs are mounted as a plantigrade
walks with entire sole of the foot
touching the ground
although it is a digitigrade
walks so that only toes
touch the ground
Detritus of empire,
mouth awkwardly gaped,
threatening, the corners
beginning to tear, too many teeth shoved in[iv].
[i] Often, wealthy families in the 1700s kept exotic animals in menageries, or in captivity for their personal entertainment. The care and wellbeing of exotic animals is still highly discussed today.
[ii] Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti was known for writing lyrics to musicals and operas such as Cavalleria rusticana. It is implied here that the mistreatment of the hippopotamus is well-known and common cultural knowledge.
[iii] This article explores the duties involved in being a taxidermist. The hippopotamus in La Specola is known for being treated unprofessionally with poor technique.
[iv] This is an image of an animal in the museum that has been stuffed. Taxidermists work to make the animals look as realistic as possible in life-like settings. The hippopotamus was stuffed very haphazardly.