Skinned Men & Test Tube Monsters

I actually got myself up at a decent hour this morning–going to bed at an acceptable hour seems to help. I don’t know why I said decent hour, society has got me judging myself it seems. I’m a night person, so my decent hours are a bit different. So, I was up earlier than I usually get going and I got quite a bit done before Jessica woke up.

As I was eating my breakfast, I watched her fiddling with the salt grinder. She was trying to fill the barrel up and having a difficult time. I was rather amused by the spectacle of her trying to unscrew the grinder mechanism with a knife, so I didn’t try to help her, but after realizing that she might break the whole thing, I showed her how simple it was to twist the top right off. She seemed annoyed that it was such a simple operation.

I decided that we should attempt a visit to the Musée Fragonard d’Alfort today. It is a place I have long wanted to see and I believed that the eG8 summit was over, so there should be no difficulties with the Metro. I was right, and the train came right along. We were zipping along, but it was going to be a longer train journey, so I worked on my novel. My visit to the taxidermy shop yesterday has given me quite an added boost of inspiration.

Much more quickly than I had anticipated, we were there. The museum is located in a section of Paris I have not yet been in. It was very peaceful–quiet, suburban, with an almost Mediterranean feel. There were no pastel colored buildings or palm trees, but it reminded me of Nice somehow. We wandered around a bit and before long we were at the gates of the École Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort. It was not a particularly welcoming place–seemed very much like a military establishment, but it was indeed the proper location.

I read the plaque, Jessica was completely uninterested–the veterinary college is the only national college in France that remains on its original grounds. King Louis XV purchased a château for the school long, long ago and it has been running ever since.

The Musée Fragonard d’Alfort is an interesting collection, it is billed as a museum of natural history, but it is really a curiosity cabinet filled with genetic mutations and creations that belong in the realm of nightmares.

After a bit of confusion, we were allowed inside the gates and then pointed towards the museum. The area was secluded, very creepy, it would have been a good location for Ghost Hunters–except, I don’t think it’s haunted, but that doesn’t seem to matter–only a few people were walking around, moving quickly with their heads down. The museum entrance was not well marked and we would have missed it if I hadn’t carefully listened to the entrance guard’s instructions.

It was on the second floor of one of the buildings and was rather unimposing. I knew what the museum contained, so I found this surprising. It was beautiful in a derelict way–the way a beautiful house remains beautiful, but shows that it has been scrubbed a thousand times.

Based on the information I had from the website, I was not prepared to pay an entrance fee, but it was seven euros. The free part is only for students studying in France. Oh well, we had come all this way. The man at the front desk was very friendly and after a few minutes, Jessica and I both had an audio guide and were perusing the various cabinets.

The first few cabinets are very calm, showing various skeletons, the occasional organ in a jar, but as you go deeper and deeper, the place starts becoming very odd.

This display showed the differences between a domesticated cat and a feral cat.

This case displayed the skeleton of a fully-grown man and then the skeletons of several human fetuses in various stages of development. Tiny skeletons are disturbing.

I’m not sure what this creature was, nor do I recall what it was doing. I think it’s a cat.

The floor was not the least bit macabre–I’m crazy about herringbone floors! Herringbone anything, actually, it’s one of my favorite patterns. Have you ever seen a herringbone brick patio? Gorgeous.

This is the “bronchial tree” of a cow. I had never realized how much it resembled a tree until it was shown like this.

These are the legs of the same dog. The veins and arteries were filled with wax and then the flesh was scraped away to demonstrate how these blood vessels look.

A rather sad looking cow fetus.

This is when the museum started to get rather odd. This was the beginning of their collection of “monsters,” the term they use for genetic freaks.

There was something wrong with the jaw of this piglet.

This is a goat siamese twin that suffers from an H-type mutation. Both goats are fully developed and could function fully if separate but, sadly, were fused together in the womb. H-type doesn’t have anything to do with the letter, but the way the letter H looks. The I on either side of the – demonstrates the individual animal and the – shows where they were fused. Another type is the Y-type mutation. This is when the animal has one body, but two heads. I don’t have a good picture showing this.

This was a spider sheep–it had eight legs, which really must have been an inconvenience.

The staff of the college in the 18th century were particularly focused on finding evidence of mythological creatures. It was surprising how often these are based on rare freaks of the natural world. For example, the cyclops is a perfectly possible thing, not just in a Greek myth. In the cyclopses on display, there were two eyes that grew too close together and then fused as one. Fascinating stuff.

There was even a mermaid! This chid was born with legs and feet that were fused together creating what looked like a fin.

I loved this duck. He was born without wings, but still seemed perfectly happy. Except for being dead since the late 1800s…

This two-headed bat was one of my favorites. I would have loved it as a pet. I would call it Dracula and Dracula II. Lame name fabulous! I had a pet bat named Dracula for about ten minutes once, but Ma flipped her shit and I released him back into the night. I still think about him, I hope little Dracula is doing alright.

Martha Stewart tweeted a picture about a year ago about a tiny egg she found within another. She hadn’t ever heard of anything like that, so this was a very intriguing thing to find. I tweeted her this picture, so I hope I hear back from her. I’ll probably die if I do. My heart couldn’t take such excitement.

The next room was filled with skeletons and things that have been found within animals. I was intrigued by the various ways skeletons are displayed (more intrigued than most probably, as I want to be strung up after I die.) The more typical method, is to scrape away everything aside from the bone and then boil away anything that remains. The bones are then dried and wired together. The more natural, and lengthy process is done by carefully scraping the muscles and such away, but leaving the tendons and ligaments. They dry out in time and the skeleton remains exactly as it is with no need for wires.

Some cows can form pearls in their stomachs–remarkable. I wonder how many necklaces are strung with cow pearls?

Now it was time to go into the last room, which seemed more like the gallery of a mad scientist, and in fact, it is.

Would you like to dance with the jigging fetuses? That’s the actual title–the “Jigging Fetus.” I’m not kidding. The scientist who created these pieces was one of the very first professors at the college, and was a bit…odd.

He would take whatever corpses he could lay his hands on–humans preferably–and injected their veins and arteries with wax. Then he would strip off their skin, revealing the muscular system–removing some muscles to show a particular organ. He would then carefully submerge his stripped corpse into a vat of alcohol until it was thoroughly saturated and preserved. At this stage, he would remove the corpse, position it as he desired, and then let the alcohol evaporate. Once dry, the bodies were perfectly preserved.

Those are just the assumed methods because the professor left no writings and nobody really has any incentive to recreate his experiments. When the public discovered what he was doing, he was hospitalized as a mad man and many of his pieces–there were supposedly upwards of seven hundred–were destroyed. Over the centuries, many have suffered irreparable damage, and the few on display today are really quite a macabre miracle.

Here I am with my friend. I found this to be fascinating–I don’t think the professor was crazy, I think he was obsessed with natural science and wanted to put it on display how he could. I don’t blame him for giving it an artistic twist. There is no evidence that he collected his specimens through any underhanded ways, he used cadavers that were given to the college, but I suppose I can understand the people who found this almost too dark, Satanic, and maybe it was. Nobody can know.

As we left the museum, I was taken by this building.

I just love that wavy, old glass. I want an old mansion full of it. I wonder why modern glassmakers don’t recreate it somehow–maybe they can’t, or maybe they do. I’ve never seen it as an option, though. If it were, I would buy it all immediately. I’m not sure what this building was–it looked like an orangery, but it could have been a very bright office building, too.

I continued my writing on the Métro ride home. Feeling in need of a nibble, I poked into Miss Manon–my old woman greeted me with her grumpy yet cheerful, “Bonjour.” I treated myself to a lemon tart. We had a little chat about lemon tarts, it turns out she has many varieties. The one I had was called a citron-citron. Good to know. Then, my heart still hurts thinking of it, they were out of poppyseed baguettes. (Wait a minute, why isn’t my computer underlining poppyseed? Yesterday I was told it was two words. I’m deeply confused. Poppyseed or poppy seed? This is more important to me than you may realize. Please comment below.) I gave a crazy, wild-eyed look. I don’t do drugs, but I’m assuming that is what I would look like if my dealer told me he had just sold his last sack of weed. I took a sesame seed baguette instead with a heavy heart and headed up the road. I also bought myself a chocolate croissant to treat myself after suffering such a loss.

I took off a slice of the baguette once I was inside, and took a bite. SWEET JESUS! What a delicious nibble! Now I can’t decide which one is better. I wonder if they make one that combines poppy seed/poppyseed and sesame. That might be too miraculous, though. When I’m home, this is the first thing I’m working on recreating. The croissant was excellent, too.

Then it was time for the lemon tart. I was going for three in a row.

Oh my dear Miss Manon, that is sour, but delicious! All that yellow is lemon curd on a shortbread shell. Inside is some pastry cream to try and mellow the tartness, but the lemon flavor really punches through. It was delicious, probably too sour for some people. But, I’m like Giada and Martha and I can’t get enough of lemon.

I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray while I ate some ravioli and was totally enthralled by the film. It was the greatest novel adaptation I have ever come across–totally respects Oscar’s vision and one of my favorite books. It was perfectly cast and wonderfully acted. I can’t recommend it enough.

Then, I went to bed. Good evening.

3 responses to “Skinned Men & Test Tube Monsters

  1. Pingback: Refrences for Collector’s Study | N kirke Digitalenvironments·

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