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Vintage Dinosaur Art: Prehistoric Animals (Octopus) – Part 2

Vintage Dinosaur Art

In my first post on this book, I exclusively looked at model dinosaurs, most of which were created by Arthur Hayward. (This is Vintage Dinosaur Art, after all.) However, ignoring the many, many models of other prehistoric animals would be doing the book a great disservice, especially because – surprise – Hayward sculpted rather a lot of them too. He even turned his hand to the odd giant ocean-going arthropod, as shown below…

Pterygotus by Arthur Hayward

Yes, it’s Pterygotus, a “particularly cruel-looking” (in Ellis Owen’s words) eurypterid that was famously equipped with a pair of spiked hedge trimmers, undoubtedly used for grabbing cute-looking little fishes for swift dismembering and devouring. A number of species have been described, and they ranged in size from the sort of thing that might be nice to eat at a polite dinner with a glass of red, to man-sized monstrosities that could probably eat you instead. Based on a very swift bit of Wikipedia research just now (ahem), I’d say that this model is based on a species that was reassigned to the genus Jaekelopterus in the 1960s; Owen’s description of the animal as being “between 2-2.5m” long bears this out. Unfortunately, it’s hard to judge both the absolute size and intended scale of this model from the above photo, as there isn’t really any point of reference. Still, it’s a very lovely thing, with a suitably subtle mottled green camouflage pattern on its back, and authentically toughened-looking pincers.

Coccosteus by BM(NH)

There are other invertebrates here, but they’re mostly boring old trilobites and the like, so never mind all that. Instead, here’s a rather sweet googly-eyed fish. Even if, like me, you aren’t especially well versed in Devonian placoderm fish, you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with Dunkleosteus. For some reason, it’s the only one anyone makes any toys of. (Something to do with its monstrousness, one imagines.) Therefore, you may well have looked at the above model, presumed it was an impossibly adorable baby Dunkleosteus, and immediately wanted one. But no – it’s actually a reconstruction of the much smaller Coccosteus, a creature that no doubt could have given you a nasty bite on your finger were you to have dipped your hand in a Devonian river, but couldn’t have cleanly separated your torso from your legs. Unlike (certain species of) mean old Uncle Dunk.

At first glance, one might assume that the white markings on the animal’s head follow the joints in its armour plating, but that isn’t the case – a detail I really rather like. This model is only credited to the then British Museum (Natural History), so is presumably not a Hayward, but the actual sculptor remains a mystery.

Ichthyostega by Arthur Hayward

Continuing the theme of cute creatures with googly eyes, here’s Arthur Hayward’s rather goofy-looking take on the early not-an-amphibian Ichthyostega. I mean, there’s a chance that Ichthyostega really did have a head that resembled an amusing hand puppet, given the placement of its eyes and shape of its skull, but this cheerful-looking fellow is still a bit unlikely-looking. Aside from its dopey face, the rather blandly brown body seems like something of a missed opportunity, especially when one compared this with another of Hayward’s models…

Eryops by Arthur Hayward

…namely this one (above), a reconstruction of the temnodospondyl Eryops. Just look at that fantastic patterning – it’s gorgeous. Aside from having far more convincing eyes than poor old Ichthyostega, this model also sports some nicely observed folds and wrinkles in its skin along with a fittingly moist-looking sheen. Hayward appears to have made the transition between the animal’s head, neck and shoulders much smoother than in other reconstructions, although that could just be a matter of perspective. It’s certainly a model that I’d be very intrigued to view from lots of different angles.

Dimetrodon by BM(NH)

And so to Dimetrodon, an animal that Owen introduces as follows:

“One of the better-known pelycosaurs is the sailback dinosaur Dimetrodon which lived during early Permian times in Texas.”

The sailback what now? Shome mishtake, surely. In any case, this model is again only credited to the British Museum (Natural History), although I’d hazard a guess that it was rather old even at the time, as it features the stunted tail typical of early Dimetrodon reconstructions, when the tail was still mostly unknown. (It’s not just that my scanner’s cut it off – you can see all of it here.) It’s otherwise a very decent sculpt, with a carefully sculpted head that notably sports lips, with only a few longer canine-like teeth protruding at the front of the mouth. Although I’m not a fan of the monotone paint job, the skin’s texture is also finely detailed and rather interesting, appearing weathered and more leathery than necessarily scaly.

Thrinaxodon by BM(NH)

The Dimetrodon contrasts in that respect with this reconstruction of the cynodont Thrinaxodon, which has been given lizardlike scales and a shrinkwrapped face for some reason. I’m aware that these animals used to be imagined as being more reptilian (hence ‘mammal-like reptiles’), but this seems a bit much. That said, the sculpt is still very impressive in terms of fine detail and looking convincingly like a living creature, with a lot of careful attention paid to the animal’s anatomy. I’m especially fond of the way the skin is stretched and creased over the shoulder and forelimb.

This is another one simply credited to the BM(NH). Boo.

Ornithosuchus by Royal Scottish Museum

The sculptor of this Ornithosuchus isn’t credited either, but the image isn’t attributed to the BM(NH). Instead, credit goes to the Royal Scottish Museum. Makes sense – Ornithosuchus was found in Scotland. Interestingly, while Owen refers to the animal as a ‘dinosaur ancestor’, the model was clearly made with crocodiles in mind; these days, it’s considered a croc-line archosaur. This is a beautiful, stunningly lifelike piece, and one that’s unsurprisingly popped up in a number of other publications. It appears to now live at Elgin Museum in Scotland, so perhaps I’ll see if they can provide a little more background information…

Ophthalmosaurus by BM(NH)

And finally…ichthyosaurs! That’ll be a beautifully painted Ophthalmosaurus at top, and I believe Ichthyosaurus below, although the book simply says “ichthyosaur”. The model is, again, only credited to the BM(NH), and again, I wonder if they have any of these stuffed in a corner in their collections somewhere. It’s lovely in any case, convincingly sleek and with a very skillfully applied mottled, counter-shaded colour scheme. Mmm, mottled.

There’s a lot more to this book, of course, but I’ve had a few rather long boozy days and I’m bloody knackered. I’m happy to return to it again if there’s demand, and maybe cover some smelly mammals or something. But that’s enough for now. Have a happy new year, see you in the next decade.

7 thoughts on “Vintage Dinosaur Art: Prehistoric Animals (Octopus) – Part 2”

  1. I think the ichthyosaur fossil is Stenopterygius.
    Is it just me or does anyone else see the eurypterid’s ocelli as its main eyes, and the large eyes as bulging cheeks? Thats how I saw it years as a kid. Gives it a kind of goofy, blushing appearance

  2. Smelly mammals please!

    My inner child appreciates that to Swedish ears, Jaekelopterus sounds like devil-opterus. Truly a satanic menace of the Palaeozoic seas!

  3. We hairy fellows most earnestly entreat you to share the mammals from this particularly fine collection of models with us, Please and Thank You for your consideration! (NO MAMMAL ERASURE! HAIRY & PROUD!).

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