Shop the Show: A Brussels Exhibition Shines a Light on Rowland Ward, One of Victorian England’s Greatest Taxidermists

Three works by Ward are currently on view in "A Victorian Shop Named the Jungle" at Spectandum Gallery.

Detail of “Paradise
Detail of “Paradise" attributed to Rowland Ward (English ornithological showcase containing34 birds from India, Turkistan, Eastern China, and Southeast Asia). Courtesy of Spectandum.

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What You Need to Know: Brussels’s Spectandum is all about the art of taxidermy (yes, you read that right). The wunderkammer of a gallery offers a unique array of preserved exotic and safari animals, as well as many rather interestingly arranged taxidermy vignettes and even a few traditional artworks to boot. The gallery has an ongoing exhibition, “Roland Ward: A Victorian Shop Named ‘The Jungle,‘” devoted to three elaborate works by Rowland Ward, one of the leading taxidermists of Victorian England. The striking objects include a glass case filled with dozens of taxidermied exotic birds, a glass case with a “glazed” flamingo, and a Roman-style walnut chair made with deer hooves.  

Why We Like It: The exhibition offers a unique look into the strange overlaps between naturalism and artistic craft that existed during the Victorian era. Besides a general wonderment at the elaborate work needed to craft these creations, Ward’s own story is equally fascinating. His grandfather was a naturalist who sold animal pelts, and his father, Edwin, who was a prolific traveler, took up the taxidermy trade. Ward joined the business at just 14 years old and rather quickly surpassed his father and grandfather in skill. Ultimately, all three generations would own their own stores in the 1870s. 

What the Gallery Has to Say: “At the end of the 19th century, Rowland’s store, more commonly known as ‘The Jungle,’ was located in Piccadilly. Rowland made a name for himself and became widely known for his animal creations ranging from decorative items to so-called ‘Wardian furniture!’ We also owe him magnificent glass cabinets filled with colorful birds; these were all the rage as home decorations. Today, we present these items as filled with history.”

Attributed to Rowland Ward
“Paradise” (English ornithological showcase containing 34 birds from India, Turkistan, Eastern China, and Southeast Asia)
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Attributed to Rowland Ward, “Paradise" (English ornithological showcase containing34 birds from India, Turkistan, Eastern China, and Southeast Asia). Courtesy of Spectandum.

Attributed to Rowland Ward, “Paradise” (English ornithological showcase containing, 34 birds from India, Turkistan, Eastern China, and Southeast Asia). Courtesy of Spectandum.

 

Rowland Ward
Unusual Roman Walnut Chair with Deer Feet
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Rowland Ward, Unusual Roman Walnut Chair with Deer Feet. Courtesy of Spectandum.

Rowland Ward, Unusual Roman Walnut Chair with Deer Feet. Courtesy of Spectandum.

Attributed to Rowland Ward
Glazed case with flamingo in a naturalistic setting (ca. 1920)
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Attributed to Rowland Ward, Glazed case with flamingo in a naturalistic setting (ca. 1920). Courtesy of Spectandum.

Attributed to Rowland Ward, Glazed case with flamingo in a naturalistic setting (ca. 1920). Courtesy of Spectandum.

 

Rowland Ward: A Victorian Shop Named the Jungle” is on view online on the Artnet Gallery Network with Spectandum, Brussels.


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