Deyrolle's Papier-Mache and Plaster Frog model

The French natural-historical dealership 'Maison Deyrolle' helped link specimen collectors with scientific experts. It also produced scores of models and posters for teaching students. This model of a dissected, pregnant frog is one object within Deyrolle's multimedia, mail-order museum designed to illustrate the wondrous variety of the animal world.

Deyrolle frog model
Image 1 Anatomical frog model by Emile Deyrolle (Wh.6569). Image © the Whipple Museum .

The 'Maison Deyrolle' is a Parisian shop that, since opening in 1831, has dealt in natural history specimens and models, often sourcing items from collectors and selling them to researchers and museums. In the late 19th century it also produced learning materials, which the shop called the 'Musée Scolaire Deyrolle'. These posters and, eventually, models were common materials in French science classes: every school in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and Lille used Deyrolle's Musée Scolaire on the recommendation of both the Ministry of Instruction and the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce.

Most of the 'Musée Scolaire Deyrolle' materials are either posters or larger-than-life models, typically schematic and color-coded. This papier-mâché and plaster frog model presents its subject in a familiar position: on its back, as though under the anatomist's knife, with viscera exposed for easy identification. A clutch of eggs denotes that this is a female frog. Deyrolle's teaching materials were often careful to present their subjects in the same positions in which a student might restrain and dissect their living counterparts. They didn't only represent frogs, but also the ways in which they were actually manipulated and examined by scientists.

Few of the contents of Deyrolle's 'Musée Scolaire' have any labels, unlike the educational material from our own zoology department (considered here). Such silence was a deliberate pedagogical choice. Deyrolle considered teaching through images superior to teaching through words: "Visual instruction is the least tiring for the mind, but this education can have good results only if the ideas engraved in the child's mind are rigorously exact." Clarity of form and representational precision were primary values in Deyrolle's commercial world.

Henry Schmidt

Henry Schmidt, 'Deyrolle's Papier-Mache and Plaster Frog model', Explore Whipple Collections, Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge, []

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