This mini-exhibition of prints explores poison in nature, drawing from the museum’s extensive natural history print collection.
The selection of almost 30 prints and a book is on view in the museum’s pull-out cases, and features poisonous animals and plants, including the well-known rattlesnake, and the more obscure manchineel tree, whose fruit is also known as the “death apple.”
Installed as a companion to the museum’s current special exhibition, Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions, the exhibition explores the many guises of poison in the natural history world. From venomous snakes, to birds whose flesh becomes deadly when they eat poisonous plants, to the many toxic plants that can be used as medicine or food, but can also kill if not processed or gathered correctly, the exhibition points out how thousands of years of trial and error has kept humans safe in the natural world.
The exhibit features works by well-known artists such as John James Audubon (American, 1785–1851) and Mark Catesby (British, 1683–1749), but also by lesser-known naturalists like Johann Matthäus Bechstein (German, 1757–1822).
The poisonous manchineel tree in Mark Catesby’s Mancaneel Tree, Misleto, Butterfly, 1743, Plate 95 from The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, Vol. 2, Hand-colored engraving, Gift of Douglas S. Phillips, 2013.7.1
John James Audubon (American, 1785–1851) depicts the deadly coral snake, Plate 41 from The Birds of America…, Hand-colored lithograph, Gift of Ardath and Joel Rynning, 1996.5.51.
The Pygmy Rattlesnake in Mark Catesby’s Small Rattle Snake, 1730, Plate T42 from The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, Vol. 2, Hand-colored engraving, Gift of Graham Arader, 2014.6.5.
Curated by Catherine Shteynberg, Assistant Director and Curator of Arts & Culture, and co-curated by Gerry Dinkins, Curator of Natural History.