Gil Macarrón et al., 2014: THE MOUNTING OF TWO BIRDS
The Royal Cabinet of Natural History, designed
for the excellent quality of the materials used
in 1752 by the sailor and naturalist Antonio de
(they imported materials from other countries,
Ulloa, was opened as a museum on November
as from Verraux House in Paris, France).
4, 1776. It was installed in the Palace of Count
The origin of the Faculty of Fine Arts, where the
Saceda or Goyeneche Palace, at number 13 of
pieces are located today, dates back to 1752,
Alcalá Street in Madrid, which previously had
when it was founded in Madrid's Royal
already housed the Royal Academy of the
Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. In the
Three Fine Arts of San Fernando (now Royal
beginning it was integrated by the School and
Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando) and
the Academy.
which was also the School of Fine Arts of San
During the reign of Isabel II, the Moyano law
Fernando.
This
explains
the
physical
was enacted (1857), which divided the
relationship
of
the
two
institutions.
Academy and the School into independent
The first taxidermists of the museum are
entities, but they continued sharing the same
unknown. The oldest cabinet dissector known
building. Artistic studies rose to the rank of
was D. Francisco Eguia, appointed Royal
"higher teachings" and the School developed
Cabinet of Natural History taxidermist in August
this task. In 1967, the School of Fine Arts of
1776. He was replaced by Juan Bautista Bru de
San Fernando moved to Complutense City of
Ramon after his death in April 1777. Juan
Madrid, and today it is still situated in the same
Bautista Bru de Ramon and his brother Mariano
place. The Education Law of 1970 transformed
were the first documented taxidermists of the
the Schools of Fine Arts in faculties and
Museum, especially valued for having dissected
acquired the name of Faculties of Fine Arts
the Java elephant, between 1777 and 1778,
(Vian Herrero, 2006).
which is still exposed in the Natural Sciences
As can be seen in the accompanying
Museum of Madrid. This is one of the oldest
documentation (Figure 2), the school, then
pieces preserved in the MNCN-CSIC. Since
called "Special School Painting, Sculpture and
then, various taxidermists worked there. The
Engraving", acquired dissected animals of the
most famous, both for the quality of their
Benedito brothers' private workshop. Until a
work as for the documentation generated
few years, when the school became aware of
(diaries, workshop notes, etc.), were Juan
the importance of these pieces, they were used
Ramon Dut, assistant taxidermist and first
as props in the composition of still lives in
taxidermist between 1857 and 1871, who
classes at the Faculty of Fine Arts. They have
performed weekly reports of the work done in
an artistic and historical value as works of art
the laboratory of taxidermy (stuffed and
being considered Cultural Asset by national and
conservation-restoration
of
pieces
of
the
international legislation, educational value,
Museum) and the Benedito brothers, José María
because of their use in teaching, and are
(1873-1951) and Luis Benedito Vives (1885-
biologically important because several of these
1955), considered in those days perhaps the
specimens, including the golden eagle, are
best taxidermists of Spain. Although they had
listed
as
protected
species
in
various
their own workshop, both worked at the
international conventions, including CITES.
Sciences Museum, the first from 1907-1943
Because some of them are very deteriorated,
and the second between 1912 and 1954. The
they are currently being put in value by the
Benedito brothers complemented each other
faculty for safekeeping through processes of
perfectly, since each was specialized in some
documentation, conservation and restoration.
functions. Whereas Jose María focused on
preparation
of
birds
and
developed
administrative and management tasks (in his
own workshop and as the head of the
MATERIALS
laboratory
of
taxidermy
at MNCN-CSIC),
Luis Benedito
was
considered
an
artist
Specimens studied
(taxidermist sculptor). The affable nature of
the latter led him to consolidate social
Golden Eagle
relations, so that in 1911 he traveled to
The golden eagle (Figure 1) could have been
Leipzig to learn the art of "dermoplastia" from
part of a batch purchased in 1914 by the
professor Herman H. Teer Meer (1871-1934),
School of Painting, Sculpture and Engraving,
which was usually used for larger specimens.
from the private workshop of the Benedito
Dermoplastia consists in carving or molding
brothers (at that time, Jose María Benedito was
an anatomical body made of plaster, on which
the head of the Taxidermy Laboratory of the
the skin was placed, instead of the usual
Natural
Sciences
Museum
workshop).
It
stuffing straw. The pieces created by the
was
bought
to
be
used
as
teaching
Benedito
brothers
were
exceptional,
not
material
in
decorative
painting
classes
only for the careful technique applied, but also
77 Journal of Paleontological Techniques