Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: “Rat d’Egypte apellé en Arabe Gérbouh” Jerboa or Desert Rat

Watercolor Painting
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I'm running a little behind schedule today.  To that, I say, "Rats!"  Egyptian rats to be accurate.

Here we see a strangely handsome watercolor of an Egyptian Jerboa eating a date. Jerboas are rodents quipped with powerful hind legs and very long tails for balance which are capable of leaping large distances to escape predators. *Shiver, gag.* These nocturnal desert dwellers are common in Egypt and enjoy arid conditions and feeding on plant material. Their name—Jerboa--is said to derive from Arabic words meaning “meaty thighs.” Charming.

The particular vermin depicted here is possibly a portrait of a pet. He has been lovingly painted holding a date in his tiny front paws. The artist is Jean-Baptiste Adanson who was a diplomat, antiquarian and draftsman, and brother of the naturalist Michel Adanson. He was the official French interpreter at various cities in Egypt and Syria, and the French consul in Egypt from 1775 until 1785. Throughout his life, Adanson amassed a large collection of his drawings of natural history, antiquities and views.

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