I saw this nineteenth-century charcoal drawing of GIANT squirrels at an antiques gallery in Maine a couple of weeks ago and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Sorry for the quality of the photograph but my camera kept reflecting off the glass. The dealer didn’t know anything about it, and it was priced at $4500, so this photograph is the only image I’ll ever have of these over-sized squirrels.
I find it charming in that nearly everything is out-of-scale: gigantic squirrels, big chickens, small house. I’m not sure about the horse in the foreground as I can’t relate it to anything. What does it mean? Is the primeval forest encroaching on the tranquil homestead? Or does the artist just like (or fear) squirrels?
While looking for more squirrel images I came across a few more with scale issues. The first image is a late eighteenth-century print issued by the London publishers Laurie & Whittle entitled The Frail Sisters. Obviously this is not great art (in fact, this post could be titled Bad Art at this point); the sisters are not particularly well done and they don’t look particularly frail. On the knee of the sitting sister is a nearly unrecognizable too-tiny squirrel, which seems to be the center of attention despite its slightness. The last off-scale squirrel is a deliberate photographic creation, and a much better image: a man and a squirrel in Harvard Yard, taken by an anonymous photographer in the Spring of 1902.
A few images of more proportioned squirrels, made by artisans in the past and the present: rabbits and a squirrel from William Vaughan’s Book containing such Beasts as are most useful for such as practice Drawing, Graveing, Painting, Chasing and for several other occasions (1664) and a very realistic-looking needle felted red squirrel by Etsy seller Daria Lvovsky.