« Midwest Book Review | Main | International Journal of Communication »

26 April 2007


Chris Miller

(note this comment relates to another entry -- but since it offered no opportunity to comment -- and I couldn't find an email address for you -- please forgive my posting it here)

You wrote:

"The statue above, sculpted by Emmanuel Frémiet, was part of a bronze group that stood at the entry way of the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Man"

Could you share the evidence you have for this display -- since elsewhere on the web, Constance Areson Clark wrote:

"American Museum president Henry Fairfield Osborn, so often vilified by anti-evolutionists, took a prominent role in the defense of evolution in the press; yet he understood, and to some extent shared, the public distaste for simian ancestors, ape-men and cave men. He realized that much of the public saw them as defective, as caricatures or parodies of humans. He was also acutely aware of the long visual tradition associating monkeys and apes with unsavory characters and brutality, including ferocious or menacing looking apes and apes kidnapping human women for prurient purposes: Many people wrote to ask him whether rumors that apes kidnapped women were true. He received so many queries of this kind that he saw fit to deny them even in scientific papers, mentioning in particular the notorious 1854 sculpture by Emmanuel Fremiet, Gorilla Abducting a Negress. The museum had been given this sculpture as a gift, he revealed, but would never put it on exhibit, “because in the Museum exhibits we are trying to present only truth and to eliminate all misrepresentations of ape and human resemblance.”

So I'm just wondering -- was that Fremiet ever really put into the "Hall of Man" ?

Archie Bishop

The reference to the statue in question came from research done in the Archives of the American Museum of Natural History, in which it was described as part of a bronze group in the Hall of Man. In any event, Osborne's Hall contained a number of busts that were of the borderline (ape and man) variety. Given Osborn's direct involvement in Eugenics, it is hard to imagine that Osborne would have been queasy about defining atavistic "defectives." His close connection with those who placed Ota Benga (sole survivor of a Belgian raid on a village in the Congo) in the Bronx Zoo Monkey House would suggest that a lurid ape-man show was not beneath his scruples.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Read The Book

Award Nominations

  • Anisfield-Wolf Award
  • National Book Award
  • Pulitzer Prize
Blog powered by Typepad