George and the Pterodactyl’, a portray by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, 4
December 1873 (public area)

It has been some time since I posted a
‘Image of the Day’ on ShukerNature, so here’s a notably intriguing
image that has attracted a whole lot of curiosity amongst pals and readers ever
since I first introduced it to their consideration in a Fb put up on 20 June 2017.

A small ink-and-wash drawing, presently housed
within the Academy of Pure Sciences in Philadelphia, it was apparently accomplished on 4
December 1873 by English painter/sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins
(1807-1894). He’s after all most well-known for his gigantic, scientifically groundbreaking
sculptures of dinosaurs and different prehistoric creatures that he created throughout
the early 1850s to accompany the erection of the spectacular Crystal Palace in
what grew to become Crystal Palace Park, following this enormous glass edifice’s removing
from its earlier, unique website in London’s Hyde Park, the place it had stood
throughout the Nice Exhibition of 1851.

For full particulars of those stupendous
reveals, which, not like the palace itself, nonetheless survive immediately, please click on right here,
right here,
and right here,
to learn my complete three-part ShukerNature article documenting their
historical past and in addition that of their subsequent, ill-fated American counterparts,
once more created by Hawkins.

(By the way, the sooner date of 4 December 1868 additionally given
by Hawkins for the drawing into account right here, as written by him beneath its backside edge alongside 4 December 1873, means that it could have begun as a
design for a sculpture to be created as a part of that never-completed American
assortment, however following the latter’s tragic finish was remodeled by him into this drawing
and seemingly accomplished in December 1873, as famous earlier.)

Along with these monumental mega-sculptures,
Hawkins additionally produced a sizeable physique of pure historical past work and drawings,
a few of which once more depicted prehistoric species, whereas others portrayed
modern-day animals. Most of those had been severe research, however on occasion he’d
produce a relatively extra tongue-in-cheek illustration, of which ‘St George and the
Pterodactyl’ is a specific living proof.


Palace Park’s iconic dinosaur sculptures by Hawkins, depicted in Matthew Digby
Wyatt’s guide Views of the Crystal Palace
and Park, Sydenham
, 1854 (public area)

For as an alternative of the titular saint battling
the standard reptilian dragon of mythology, on this very distinctive drawing
Hawkins supplied him with an erstwhile reptilian foe from antiquity. Furthermore, it
is one with which Hawkins was notably acquainted, provided that he had created
two pairs in life-sized sculptured kind for the Crystal Palace Park, beneath the
supervision of no much less a palaeontological authority than Prof. Sir Richard

Specifically, a pterodactyl – however no abnormal
one, given its nice measurement; as might be seen, it’s just about as large as St George’s
horse! As for its exact taxonomic identification: its toothy jaws have impressed
makes an attempt to classify this depicted pterosaur as a species belonging to the genus
Ornithocheirus, however I’ve not seen
any unequivocal acceptance of this classification.

Talking of St George’s horse, this poor beast
has issues of its personal – protecting its hooves free from the flailing, greedy
tentacles of a not-inconsiderable octopus lurking on the water’s edge. As for
the drawing’s setting – that is believed to be Fingal’s Cave, a big sea cavern
on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in Scotland’s Interior Hebrides group, as
evidenced by the readily-visible columns of basalt of which Fingal’s Cave is wholly

For extra particulars regarding this uncommon portray by Hawkins, I
advocate clicking right here
to entry a captivating article by historian Lydia Pyne, which examines its
attainable inspirations and symbolic interpretations.

Lastly, as additional proof of Hawkins’s
occasional flights of inventive fantasy, right here is one other instance. Signed by him with
his initials, and dated December 1864, it consists of a really (melo)dramatic drawing
(pen and black ink and wash) that depicts a bunch of equestrian prehistoric males
doing battle with a veritable phalanx of pterosaurs! Really a flight of fancy in
each sense! (By the way, if anybody has further particulars regarding this extraordinary drawing,
or a greater copy of it, I might very very like to obtain them – many thanks


extraordinary drawing of some horse-riding early males battling a flock of pterosaurs,
dated December 1864 (public area)


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