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Portrait of Charles Waterton (Peale)
Click here to find out more .... Portrait by Peale Walton Hall cayman poison bowl Church and State Peggy culverin wooden pheasant
Charles Waterton, portrait by Charles Wilson Peale PORTRAIT BY PEALE

Charles Waterton - oil on canvas by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827).

Peale was also a naturalist with a museum in Philadelphia, USA. When he first met Squire Charles Waterton, in 1824, the Englishman launched into a description of his method of taxidermy using the Guiana Red Cotinga and the cat's head that the artist has included here.

More about the portrait, including a colour picture, click here.

The actual portrait itself, is in the National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/

NPG Reference NPG 2014, Charles Waterton by Charles Wilson Peale, Date: 1824.
Medium: oil on canvas, Measurements: 24 1/8 in. x 20 1/4 in. (613 mm x 514 mm)
Primary Collection. On display at the National Portrait Gallery [NPG Information as at 23 Sep 2004.]

The Items Added to the Painting
caymanCAYMAN

"Cayman [also caiman]. Alligator nigrer. This is the animal which Waterton so brilliantly captured. There are many of the crocodiles and alligators in North and South America, and in habits they seem to be much alike.

All have the peculiar way of attacking animals on land by knocking them into the water with a blow of the tail, and carrying them off before they can recover from the effects of the blow. Sometimes they have been known to attack canoes in this manner.

They all possess a most abominable musky smell, "floating", as Mr. C.B. Brown says, "like a deadly miasma round our camp, and finding its way even to our palates." Then, all of them are in the habit of emitting loud, bellowing noises, especially at night, so that they make themselves as objectionable to the ears as to the nostrils.

cayman hookThe hook which was used by Waterton was engraved in the original edition of the Wanderings, but I am sure that the draughtsman who drew it could not have seen it. The instrument itself is in Waterton's museum, and I have here substituted my own sketch of it.

The four prongs are not barbed, but are sharply pointed, as seen in the illustration. They are flattish, and very tough, as they need to be, for they are bitten and cracked all over by the teeth of the cayman. The prongs are kept in their diverging position by wooden pegs driven between them, and the whole instrument is thus made so elastic that it can be compressed by a strong grasp of the hand, and then springs back again into its original form. So, when compressed by the entrails of the acouri, which were wrapped around them, the instrument would slip easily down the cayman's throat, and then expand upon being swallowed." [Rev. J.G. Wood]

Wanderings in South America, the North-west of the United States, and the Antilles, in the years 1812, 1816, 1820, and 1824. Charles Wateron, edited by the Rev. J.G. Wood, Macmillan & Co., 1880. Pictures of the cayman and the hook also from this edition.

poison-bowl and sectionPOISON BOWL "Here are two ... 'dodges' intended for the preservation of young peas, beans, etc., from the all-present rats and mice.

Poisoned food is one effectual plan, but it must be so laid that neither poultry nor game can get at it. This object was attained by means of a poison-bowl, i.e. a rounded bowl of earthenware, or even stone, through the centre of which is a hole just large enough to admit a rat. The use of the bowl was simple enough. A spoonful of poisoned meal was laid on the ground, and the bowl inverted over it. Rats could reach the meal by the hole, and did so, but neither pheasants nor poultry could so much as touch it with the tips of their beaks.

A section of the poison-bowl is given in the illustration, together with a view of its upper surface."

Wanderings in South America, the North-west of the United States, and the Antilles, in the years 1812, 1816, 1820, and 1824. Charles Wateron, edited by the Rev. J.G. Wood, Macmillan & Co., 1880. Picture from this edition.

Walton Hall from Essays on Natural History, Second SeriesWALTON HALL In this picture, from the Second Series of Essays on Natural History, the Iron Bridge and Water Gate have been somewhat skewed around in relation to the front of the hall. The bridge and gate are actually at the front of the hall rather than to one side as shown here.

culverinCULVERIN "The original house extended to the water on the south side, and was a fortified building of sufficient strength to justify a siege under Cromwell's personal direction.
Unfortunately, Waterton's father destroyed this historical building to make way for the present house, and almost the only relic of this fortification is the old gateway, with its central tower and flanking turrets, and said to be more than a thousand years of age.
The gate itself is of very thick oak planking, pierced with loopholes for musketry, and bearing tangible evidence of the siege in the shape of many bullet marks. In the left portion of the gate there is a ball still remaining, which is distinguished by an iron ring round it bearing an inscription to the effect that it was fired by Oliver Cromwell himself. That he took an active part in the siege is well known, but it is difficult to identify any individual bullet which he fired. The tradition further states that the shot was fired at the lady of the house, who gallantly conducted the defence herself. The reader may be interested to hear that her defence was successful.

While the soldiers were occupying the hill nearly opposite the gateway, one of the soldiers started off with a keg on his shoulder to fetch beer from the village. Thinking that he would return by the same route, one of the garrison aimed a little gun which was mounted on the topmost storey, so as to command the path. The soldier did return by the same way, and was struck down by the ball which passed through his thigh.


The tradition of this lucky shot was handed down from father to son, until it reached Waterton's father. He had the curiosity to dig at the spot where the man was said to have fallen, and there he found the ball, a little iron one. This he gave to his son, with a request that it should always remain in the family.

In 1857, while dredging away the drift mud which had accumulated round the gateway, a small iron cannon was discovered. as the ball fitted it, and it was found exactly below the turret from which the fatal shot had been fired, there could be no doubt that it was the identical gun mentioned in the tradition; so Waterton had the pleasure of placing the cannon and the ball together in his house, where every visitor could see them.

Beside the gun, there were found a sword-blade, a spear, daggers, axe, many coins, keys, and some silver plate. For their presence in the mud Waterton accounts by suggesting that they were flung into the moat, when the house was ransacked for arms after the Battle of Culloden. He told me that if the lake were completely drained, many more such articles would be recovered."

Wanderings in South America, the North-west of the United States, and the Antilles, in the years 1812, 1816, 1820, and 1824. Charles Wateron, edited by the Rev. J.G. Wood, Macmillan & Co., 1880. Picture from this edition.

Church and StateCHURCH AND STATE

"Even with trees, Waterton must needs have his joke. All the important trees in the park had their names. There were, for example, the Twelve Apostles standing in a group, all starting from one root, the Eight Beatitudes, the Seven Deadly Sins, etc. Then there were an oak and a Scotch fir twined together, and going by the name of Church and State."

Wanderings in South America, the North-west of the United States, and the Antilles, in the years 1812, 1816, 1820, and 1824. Charles Wateron, edited by the Rev. J.G. Wood, Macmillan & Co., 1880. Picture from this edition.

TAXIDERMY
Peggy
"All improvements are gained by experience, and, when I first knew Waterton, he had abandoned the box of cotton-wool, and employed a far superior mode of fixing his subject.
Instead of a box, he had made a simple framework, as here illustrated, both ends being open and the upper part projecting considerably. This was bored with holes at irregular intervals, so that an upright rod might be inserted into any of them. An ordinary wine cork was bored and passed over the rod, so as to slide rather stiffly up and down. A stout pin was stuck into the cork, a piece of twine tied to it, and the simple apparatus was complete.
The sketch was taken while Waterton was preparing a pheasant. A large lump of wax is pressed on the beak and from it projects a sharp needle point, which can be thrust into the cork. It will be seen that the bird can thus be supported in any position, and the wings raised or depressed at pleasure. For convenience sake, Waterton usually placed his bird-stand on a little oak table, which he called 'Peggy', and which could be turned about so as to enable him to reach every part of the bird. The piece of twine attached to the pin was used for giving the proper position of the head, the twine being hitched into notches cut in the side of the stand.
On such a stand I have prepared birds in the act of standing, flying, swimming or feeding, and found it to be invaluable. It also answers well for the smaller animals, but the larger kinds must necessarily have stands of corresponding size."

Wanderings in South America, the North-west of the United States, and the Antilles, in the years 1812, 1816, 1820, and 1824. Charles Wateron, edited by the Rev. J.G. Wood, Macmillan & Co., 1880. Picture from this edition.

Structure of a wooden pheasant WOODEN PHEASANT

Like many landed gentlemen he had a preserve of pheasants, and was consequently harassed by poachers. He devised a ingenius scheme to deceive the poachers (of which more elsewhere). As part of the scheme, "he made a number of wooden pheasants, and did it in the simplest manner imaginable. He got some small scaffolding poles and cut them diagonally into pieces about as long as a pheasant's body.

A lath fastened to one end made a capital tail, and all that was needed was to trim the shoulder to the neck and put a head on the other end, a nail doing duty for a beak. .... the wooden pheasants were nailed on the trees in the preserve, and so exactly did they resemble the actual birds that in the dark no one could detect the imposition. Even in daylight the dummy so closely resembles the bird that a second glance is necessary in order to make sure that it is only an imitation. The accompanying sketch represents one of the dummies on the outskirts of the preserve.

The poachers were completely deceived, and Waterton used to enjoy the reports of their guns, knowing they were only wasting their shot upon the wooden images, while the real birds were comfortably asleep under his eye."

Wanderings in South America, the North-west of the United States, and the Antilles, in the years 1812, 1816, 1820, and 1824. Charles Wateron, edited by the Rev. J.G. Wood, Macmillan & Co., 1880. Picture from this edition.

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