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  • Diane Gerrard

The Not so Recent Life of Squirrels 2

When  I first posted about art works using squirrels  (I also included my own!) I  was ignorant  of a long history of squirrels being featured in art work, of humans’ obsessions with these little  animals and  keeping then as pets. Just when you think you might have stumbled on what I thought was a  relatively un-mined subject matter, history again lets one know- there is nothing new!

A few Images from Art History  showing squirrels as pets.

Medieval Life 

detail from Luttrell Psalter 4th Centuary, British Libraryr

A  detail from the  4th century Luttrell Psalter,  shows n image of  a woman playing with a pet squirrel, British Library.

floor tile 1290 = 1300 (circa) Britsh Museum

A floor tile 1290-1300 (circa) shows a woman wearing a coronet and with her pet squirrel. British Museum, Chertsey tiles: Queens Panel

Later Examples


created 1526-1528. Hans Holbein the Younger.

National Gallery London

Lady with squirrel  Francesco Montemezzano Rijksmueum

Detail of Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel , about 1565. Attributed to Francesco Montemezzano,

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

I am grateful to the  Broider Me ‘Bethan  ( cannot get the web site link to work!)

and to  Rosalie’s Medieval Woman  for pointing me in the direction of some of these images.

It continues

The practice of keeping squirrels as “pets” and exploiting these creatures far beyond simply drawing and capturing their images  has carried.  In searching for  squirrels in art I have come across  numerous internet sites and videos featuring small furry animals, in particular  squirrels. For the most part these sites are about showing, making, and selling images, sculptures and toys. But in 2018 there are sites engaged in the selling of various breeds of these creatures for pets.

After thousands of years of domestication dogs and cats to some extent may trust we humans and tolerate our behaviour towards them in return for food and shelter, but for wild animals it must be very difficult to make us understand what they find intrusive and unacceptable – but of course they can always bite  us!

In the UK the grey squirrel is considered a pest, as it has threatened the survival of the indigenous red squirrel. For me there is a dissonance  regarding  concern for these animals’ natural behaviour and welfare and the action  being taken in parts of the  country to eliminate them. Not one I can resolve.

Tommy Tucker

One well documented and famous 20th century story about humans making  pets of squirrels is that of squirrel Tommy Tucker.

In the 1940s an orphaned  squirrel was adopted by Zaidee Bullis  in  Washington. She named the squirrel Tommy Tucker  and he became  celebrated in  America after an article about him appeared in  Life Magazine along with  a series of photos by Nina Leen  (Time & Life Pictures/Getty )  showing Tommy wearing the different costumes made for him.  Below are two examples.

A Squirrel's Guide to Fashion

I Call This My “Going Visiting Dress”

A Squirrel's Guide to Fashion

The “Little Squirrel on the Prairie” Look

There are many current examples in  on-line videos of such treatment of small animals.  While some of us use drawing and painting to create our fantasies about animals perhaps some humans take it all too far with trying to turn  their fantasies of  these animals into reality.

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