Molly Cameron

November 3rd, 2017




Daisy Fried, Ippopotamo

Text: Women's Poetry: Poems And Advice

Reproduced 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.