Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Portrait with a cat's head!

Charles Waterton (1782 - 1865) is one of Wakefield's most fascinating characters, and will be featured in the new museum.

He was a pioneer.  He studied the wildlife and people of the South American rainforests, his tales of capturing specimens such as the caiman crocodile (pictured above on the banner) reading like 'Boys' Own'  adventures.  He was still climbing trees into his 80s!

Waterton perfected a new way to preserve animals for display, performed experiments on rainforest poisons which have been important  in modern medicine and founded the world's first nature reserve - at Walton Hall, Wakefield.

Charles Waterton is such an important subject for Wakefield Museum, that we were absolutely delighted to receive some new donations relating to him recently.

Mr Benjamin Weeks from Switzerland (the great, great, great grandson of Charles Waterton) has recently donated an oil painting of Charles Waterton painted by a student of the Royal Academy. This painting is based on the original 1824 portrait by Charles Willson Peale which is currently on display in the National Portrait Gallery.  It shows Waterton posing with the preserved head of a cat!

Museum Registrar, Leanne Dodds taking in the new donations
Mr Weeks also donated 28 pieces of Waterton family porcelain, 9 of which have the Waterton family crest on them and may have been used in Walton Hall when Charles Waterton lived there. The items belonged to Mr Weeks’ late mother Mrs Pamela Weeks nee Waterton who was Charles’ great, great granddaughter.

The family have previously donated 4 of Charles’ ‘Wanderings’ notebooks written during his time in South America, a number of photographs and prints of Walton Hall, a poem about Charles written on his death and a wall clock owned by Charles Waterton.

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