La Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée, Part 1
The Gallery of Comparative Anatomy, as seen from near the entrance ...
After quite a long hiatus from posts about museum exhibits, this seemed like a good time to get back into the subject. We have visited some strange and wondrous museums in the past few months, but the strangest and most wondrous of all has to be this old museum close to the Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris.
... and from above.
The Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée opened for the 1900 Paris world’s fair, as did many other exhibit venues. Although it was built as a new museum, it was based on fabulous old collections that had been developed in Paris during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is located in a corner of the Jardin des Plantes, which served as a royal garden prior to the French Revolution.
The Jardin des Plantes is overseen by a statue of the famous biologist J.-B.P.A. Lamarck. In the distance is the building that houses the newer Grande Galerie de l'évolution.
This place is an absolute wonder. Paris is often considered as a treasure house because of galleries such as the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. And of course those are amazing institutions. But this entire museum is itself a work of art, incorporating architecture, sculpture, design, and the natural architecture of skeletons, into an organic whole. It is an irreplaceable treasure, housing specimens many of which are themselves irreplaceable treasures.
Entrance side of the Galerie de paléontologie et d'anatomie comparée.
We visited during the peak of this summer’s July heatwave. This may have given us a real period feeling for the building, because of course this museum lacks modern features such as air conditioning in the galleries. We sadly had to curtail our visit due to the heat, which became more intense as we climbed to the palaeontology gallery above this one, but I was able to take many photos. What follow here are images of the lower floor of the museum, the level that is based on the comparative anatomy collections.
If you want to see more of this Paris museum, please see Ghost Giants, about the fossil vertebrates, and Life’s Dusty Attic, about fossil invertebrates.
Horses: that's a Percheron in front, with a Thoroughbred behind.
A spectacled bear stands in front of some big cats that look ready to pounce. Note the case of primate skulls in the background!
The walls are lined with cases filled with skulls, dissections, and all sorts of remarkable anatomical objects ...
... such as these bear brains ...
... and this somewhat gruesome model of a dissected orangutan.
These skeletons of a falcon, ibis, and cat were extracted from animals that had been mummified in Egyptian tombs!
I had always wondered what a flamingo skeleton must look like, since their legs are so incredibly slender even when cloaked in muscle and skin.
Although mammals dominate, other groups of vertebrates are also present, such as the birds and this marvellous collection of reptiles.
If you are the squeamish sort, you may want to avert your eyes from the photo below ...
These little guys have been looking out into the gallery in their somewhat macabre way for many decades.
The whales, of course, take up a major part of the gallery.
Theylook like sculptural objects when viewed from some angles.
The whales, as seen from above
This right whale is possibly the most effective exhibit of baleen that I have ever seen.
A cabinet full of dog skulls demonstrates the extent to which some dog breeds have been modified by unnatural selection from the original wolf template.
These skulls of spaniels (?) are perhaps typical examples. These look so little like a wolf skull that they could easily be assigned to a different species if we didn't know better.
The static exhibit of a human skeleton beside the skeletons of our nearest relatives may demonstrate human evolutionary origins far more forcefully than any website or book.
This is a most unusual sculpture for an introduction to a gallery of anatomy and paleontology!