An extremely rare antique taxidermy Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
1st half 20th century
The marvellous creature in very good condition and of very fine quality, being a recently mounted antique skin.
Including a pre-convention CITES certificate.
L. approx. 130 cm
Private collection, the Netherlands (1940s-50s)
In the mythology and folklore of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon Basin, the giant anteater is depicted as a trickster foil to the jaguar, as well as a humorous figure due to its long snout. In one Shipib tale, an anteater challenged a jaguar to a breath-holding contest underwater, which the jaguar accepted. After the two removed their pelts and submerged, the anteater jumped out of the water and stole the jaguar's pelt, leaving the jaguar with the anteater's pelt. In a Yarabara myth, the evil ogre Ucara is transformed into one by the sun. This myth emphasizes the nearly immobile nature of the anteater's mouth, which was considered a burden. The Kayapo people wear masks of various animals and spirits, including the anteater, during naming and initiation ceremonies. They believe women who touched anteater masks or men who stumbled while wearing them would die or receive some sort of physical disorder.
During the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the giant anteater was one of many native fauna taken to Europe for display. At first, Europeans believed all anteaters were female and mated with their noses, a misconception corrected by naturalist Félix de Azara. In the 20th century, Salvador Dalí wrote imaginatively that the giant anteater "reaches sizes bigger than the horse, possesses enormous ferocity, has exceptional muscle power, is a terrifying animal." Dalí depicted an anteater in the style of The Great Masturbator. It was used as a bookplate for André Breton, who compared the temptations a man experiences in life to what "the tongue of the anteater must offer to the ant."