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Finest taxidermist in world showcased at auction

PUBLISHED: 14:40 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:58 16 September 2019

Seven works by a Victorian taxidermist go under the hammer in a Norfolk auction house.

Thomas E Gunn was born in Lakenham, Norwich in 1844, and before he was 40 had gained a reputation as the finest taxidermist in the world, running his business from St Giles Street in the city until his death in 1923.

Now seven cases of his work will be sold at Keys Auctioneers and Valuers in Aylsham, as part of a 300-lot Ornithological and Natural History Sale.

This will be the seventh year that Keys has run the specialist sale, which is now regarded as one of the most important of its type in the country.

Also in the sale are pictures by Norfolk wildlife artists John Harrison (1898-1985) and Sir Peter Scott (1909-1989), as well as a rare watercolour by Norfolk wildlife photographer Richard Richardson (1922-1977).

Oscar Crocker of Keys said: "In the days before wildlife documentaries on television, and before people had the means to enjoy the extensive habitats we have in this region, taxidermy was an important way of showing wildlife to a wider audience.

"There is a rich heritage of Victorian taxidermy, and here in East Anglia we had a number of world-leading practitioners, including Lowne of Great Yarmouth and Lockwood of Fakenham. But the undisputed master was T E Gunn, whose cases remain hugely in demand today.

"Although taxidermy is not to everyone's taste, good quality examples have as much artistic merit as other forms of wildlife art.

"In its day, taxidermy was also an important way of educating the wider population about wildlife and the natural world."

T E Gunn cases on sale in the auction include an otter, a crested grebe, pheasants, a grey parrot and an albino dove, as well as three fallow deer heads.

Important pictures at the same sale include an oil painting 'A pair of teal over Fritton Lake' by Sir Peter Scott, which has a pre-sale estimate of £3,500-£4,000, and a watercolour by John Harrison 'Merlin and Golden Plover', estimate £1,600-£1,800.

The sale is on Friday, September 20 at Keys Aylsham salerooms, and simultaneously online at www.the-saleroom.com.

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