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Photograph - Skeleton of Man and of the Male Gorilla (Troglodytes Gorilla)
  • Skeleton of Man and of the Male Gorilla (Troglodytes Gorilla)
    Fenton, Roger, born 1819 - died 1869
  • Enlarge image

Skeleton of Man and of the Male Gorilla (Troglodytes Gorilla)

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    London (photographed)

  • Date:

    c.1855 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fenton, Roger, born 1819 - died 1869 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Salted paper print mounted on printed card

  • Museum number:

    40849

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case EDUC, shelf 13.1

When this photograph was taken, Roger Fenton was the official photographer at the British Museum. (The British Museum then held the collections that now comprise the Natural History Museum.) The human skeleton depicted is of no special significance, apart from the fact that it is probably of a European. The gorilla, however, shows evidence of severe trauma to its left arm - a bite from a lion to the lower part of its left humerus. Gorillas do not spend much time ‘standing’ upright because it takes muscle energy for them to do so. Thus, the supposedly ‘neutral’ presentation of a gorilla skeleton is in fact the presentation of an idea: ‘a gorilla standing is not too different from a human standing’.

Physical description

Two skeletons photographed side by side for comparative purposes. Printed with Fenton's credit.

Place of Origin

London (photographed)

Date

c.1855 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Fenton, Roger, born 1819 - died 1869 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Salted paper print mounted on printed card

Dimensions

Height: 36.5 cm, Width: 28 cm

Descriptive line

Photograph by Roger Fenton, 'Skeleon of Man and of the Male Gorilla (Troglodytes Gorilla)', salted paper print, c.1855

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Donald, Diane, and Jane Munro, Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009.
Taken from Photography Department index card catalogue

Labels and date

Gallery 100, ‘History of photography’, 2011-2012, label text :

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
‘Skeleton of Man and of the Male Gorilla
(Troglodytes Gorilla)’
About 1855

A leader in the first generation of photographers,
Fenton was the official photographer at the British
Museum, which held the collections that today
comprise the Natural History Museum. Photography
rapidly became a valuable aid to scientific research.
The ape skeleton has been reconstructed in a
more upright form than natural to emphasise the
similarities between humans and apes. The gorilla’s
left arm shows evidence of a lion bite.

Salted paper print
Museum no. 40.849
[07 03 2014]

Production Note

Fenton was official photographer at the British Museum at this time

Reason For Production: Retail

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Salted paper processes

Subjects depicted

Disciplines; Natural history; Gorilla; Skeleton

Categories

Death; Photographs; Science

Production Type

Unlimited edition

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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