August 31, 2013 | 5
Looking at Symbolist Master Gustave Moreau’s Orphée I am struck by something. No, not the exquisitely beautiful severed head. The two box turtles hanging out in the corner, trying to be under the radar.
I may not be a cheloniologist, but l think those are North American Box Turtles. Or possibly Indian Star Tortoises. Indian Star Tortoises may be more likely since Symbolists like Moreau were obsessed with a kind of romanticized “Oriental” aesthetic when they threw jewellery and patterned drapery around in their paintings. In any case, what are they doing in a painting by a French Symbolist set in Greek legend?
Invasive species? A piece of exotic ephemera?
How many other paintings in fine art history feature species out of their proper geological place?