An exotic creature in Trafalgar Lane

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'An exotic creature in Trafalgar Lane' page

Photo:In 'The Camelopard', or 'A New Hobby' (1827), satirist William Heath showed a rather plump King George IV riding the giraffe with his mistress Lady Conyngham. This did not actually happen, especially since the giraffe had arrived in Britain with injured limbs.

In 'The Camelopard', or 'A New Hobby' (1827), satirist William Heath showed a rather plump King George IV riding the giraffe with his mistress Lady Conyngham. This did not actually happen, especially since the giraffe had arrived in Britain with injured limbs.

Photo: Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Linked to special exhibition in Royal Pavilion

The first photo on the right is a piece of street art at the entrance to Trafalgar Terrace, just off Trafalgar Street. It has been inspired by the current special exhibition at the Royal Pavilion, called 'Exotic Creatures'.

They'd never seen a giraffe

The creature appears to be a cross between a giraffe and a camel because until George IV was given a giraffe by the Pasha of Egypt in 1827 people had only the haziest idea of what a giraffe actually looked like, never having seen one.

Content of the exhibition

The temporary exhibition at the Royal Pavilion has been curated by Dr Alexandra Loske. It explores animals in royal collections, menageries and early zoos, and political beasts in the period 1750 to 1850. As well as the fascinating story of the first living giraffe in the UK, which was given to George IV, the exhibition also covers the history of travelling menageries performing in London and Brighton, as well as other exotic creatures.

Items assembled

The works on show include satirical prints and original menagerie bills, sculptural and ceramic pieces including a bronze rhinoceros and colourful Staffordshire figures, as well as paintings and archival material. A painting of liger cubs (bred between a lion and a tigress) presented to George IV is on public display for the first time. Many of the pictures are on loan from the Royal Collection.

Giraffemania

There are beautiful depictions of the King’s giraffe and as well as artistic renderings Britain experienced a popular ‘giraffemania’, with everything from candlesticks, printed fabrics and ceramics being inspired by George IV’s giraffe. Fashionable magazines promoted interior designs using giraffe-based colours and patterns and women wore their hair ‘à la girafe’, piled up high.

Exhibition dates

'Exotic Creatures' continues until 28th February 2016 and is free with Royal Pavlion admission.

 

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 237, November/December 2015]

This page was added on 21/12/2015.

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