Odds and quads

The bronze lamp in the form of an improbable bird takes its origins from the drawings of grotesque beasts by the Dutch designer and silversmith Arent van Bolten, dating from around 1620.

October 20, 2011

The wooden statue of Hercules and the Nemean Lion is based on a terracotta by Stefano Maderno (c.1576-1636), the leading Roman sculptor of his day. The bronze infant with a dolphin comes from a fountain and may represent Cupid.

These are just three examples from the remarkable menagerie of exotic and mythical animals owned by the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham. Many were acquired by Thomas Bodkin, its first director, who tried to build a representative collection of European sculpture, in which animal subjects have always been popular.

Also purchased in Professor Bodkin's era (1935-52) was a bronze of Miss Clara, the "celebrity rhinoceros" - the first rhino to be seen in mainland Europe since 1579 - who toured the Continent in the 1740s. She is a central focus of the display and events at the Barber celebrating Black History Month.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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