Obviously, I had watched all this unfold, but honestly, wasn't really interested until just recently. I was watching my favorite show on Netflix right now, Oddities, which chronicles the adventures of a very unique antique store in New York known as Obscura. Taxidermied animal anomalies are a specialty for the shop and every once in awhile the shop discusses what is called a gaffe...the fake taxidermy specimens such as the Fiji mermaids and...the Jenny Haniver!
I was quite excited to see that the stupid little fake thing that caused such a stir online awhile back actually had a name as well as an interesting and LONG history.
Jenny Hanivers, also known as Devil Fish, originated as early as the mid-1500s as a way for British sailors in Belgium to make a little extra cash. Taking the carcass of a ray or skate, the sailor would cut, dry and varnish the finished product to sell as oddities and souvenirs. The name Jenny Haniver is believed to have come from a loose pronunciation of the French phrase, jeune d'Anvers, which translates to "young person of Antwerp."
And even though the photo above managed to fool more than a few modern people, it doesn't seem like too many people were fooled at the time....or were they?
As early as 1558, there was a warning to the people that these were not a new species. Konrad Gesner's Historia Animalium, volume IV clearly states that the Jenny Haniver is a disfigured ray and NOT a dragon, as many believed! And...in a twist of fate that so often comes with this line of work, a friend posted the image below as I was planning out a post on the Jenny Haniver...
|Salvador Dali with a Jenny Haniver. You're welcome!|
*Theresa's Note* If anyone wants to buy me a Christmas present, apparently these things are still being sold in some places! I would LOVE my very own little Jenny Haniver under the tree this year!