Skip to content




    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 significantly intriguing
    image that has attracted quite a lot of curiosity amongst pals and readers ever
    since I first introduced it to their consideration in a Fb publish 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 elimination
    from its earlier, unique web site in London’s Hyde Park, the place it had stood
    in the course of the Nice Exhibition of 1851.

    For full particulars of those stupendous
    displays, which, not like the palace itself, nonetheless survive at this time, 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 consideration 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 critical research, however once in a while he’d
    produce a relatively extra tongue-in-cheek illustration, of which ‘St George and the
    Pterodactyl’ is a selected 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 significantly acquainted, on condition that he had created
    two pairs in life-sized sculptured type for the Crystal Palace Park, underneath the
    supervision of no much less a palaeontological authority than Prof. Sir Richard

    Particularly, a pterodactyl – however no peculiar
    one, given its nice measurement; as might be seen, it’s just about as huge as St George’s
    horse! As for its exact taxonomic id: 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 – preserving 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 Inside 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
    suggest clicking right here
    to entry an interesting 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 gaggle of equestrian prehistoric males
    doing battle with a veritable phalanx of pterosaurs! Actually a flight of fancy in
    each sense! (By the way, if anybody has extra particulars regarding this extraordinary drawing,
    or a greater copy of it, I would 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)