A bizarre collection of stuffed animals that was broken up and sold around the world seven years ago has been reassembled for a one-off exhibition. The eccentric works of Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter, in which stuffed animals mimic human life, were sold for more than £500,000 in 2003. Celebrities including comedian Harry Hill, photographer David Bailey and artist Peter Blake snapped up pieces from the 10,000-item collection in Mr Potter's eerie Museum of Curiosities
“Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor is a fantastic Victorian-Edwardian collection of stuffed animals and curios. There are hundreds of items, all collected or devised by the original Mr Potter, who was a self-taught taxidermist. You can see he knew very little about anatomy and musculature, because some of the taxidermy is terrible - there’s a kingfisher that looks nothing like a kingfisher. But there’s some great stuff in there, too - two-headed goats, a rhino’s head, a mummified human hand. As an ensemble, it’s just mad.
“My own favourites are these tableaux: there’s a kittens’ wedding party, with all these kittens dressed up in costumes, even wearing jewellery. The kittens don’t look much like kittens, but that’s not the point. There’s a rats’ drinking party, too - which puts a different construction on Wind in the Willows. And a group of hamsters playing cricket.
“I’ve offered £1m and to pay for the cost of the auctioneer’s catalogue – just for them to take it off the market and keep the collection intact – but apparently, the auction has to go ahead. It is a tragedy.”