Applause for the Shooting Stars of the Flower Show

And Now for the Star of the Wildflower Show – 


Location: Lost Garden Parking Lot;

Plank Boardwalk over historically muddy place - McDonald Family Trail (Red)

Plank Boardwalk over historically muddy place – McDonald Family Trail (Red)The MacDonald Family Trail (Red) to the Sangamon River overlook 

The MacDonald Family Trail (Red) to the Sangamon River overlook

The Spring wildflowers have been spectacular. And blooming since early March, too. This past weekend held vestiges of the previous blooming wave. IMG_3667

A few trout lilies remained, although their mottled leaves dominated the floor. The Dutchmen’s Breeches (in the Poppy family) have also faded.

Red Trillium

Red Trillium

Red Trillium are fully opened. Mayapple already sport waxy discs at the bifurcation. IMG_3732With warm temperatures predicted this week, the Jacks in the Pulpit will be in full riot. Bluebells (a member of the Borage family), Purple and Pink Phlox, and Pink Wild Geranium splash pastels amidst the verdant forest floor. Blue-eyed Mary, a snapdragon, line the Blue/Red trail.

But this year, like last year, the Shooting Star stole the show. IMG_8849On Friday, April 14, only two early blooms were counted. IMG_8991On early afternoon Saturday, while the rain still glistened on the stalk, the bloom was on. It was a true Georgia O’Keefe moment. IMG_8984By Sunday afternoon, the slope from Pussy Toe Hill / Lesser Promontory Slope on the Red Trail was engulfed in Shooting Stars. By Monday, the wind over the course of two days was beginning to take its toll on the delicate blooms. It’s a wonder the single stalk that seems to shoot from the earth can support the sheer weight of so many full blooms.IMG_9017 A 15 mile per hour gusty wind shook the blooming chandeliers. At the height of this tall stalk bursts forth, out and down a cascade of flowers – each one, seeming to erupt. By Tuesday, the peak of Shooting Stars was a past event. Just have to wait another 52 weeks for the next show.

After this wildflower interruption, it will be time to return to eBird. It will be time to look up for the birds, while keeping an eye on the trail and road ahead.

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Long Walk Through the Park

Today was a long walk day. Twelve of the 22 kilometers passed through the Park. Three of these twelve kilometers traveled the red and blue trails accessed via the Lost Garden Trailhead and now the McDonald Family Trail. IMG_3744The plank boardwalk passage over the previous mud barrier allows discovery of this natural bog. Continuing upward on the red trail, the trail eventually opens to a promontory over the Sangamon River. Following the crest of the hill south along the ridge and then carefully down the slope, Pussy Toes, Spring Beauties, Trout Lilies, Dutchmen Breeches, Bellwort,



Phlox and Bluebells provide a spectacular backdrop. The Shooting Stars have not yet bloomed in force.

Slopes of the lesser promontory over the Sangamon River. Shooting Stars are poised, ready to burst into bloom. Last year, April 20 was the peak bloom. We may be about the same this year.

Slopes of the lesser promontory over the Sangamon River. Shooting Stars are poised, ready to burst into bloom. Last year, April 20 was the peak bloom. We may be about the same this year.


Shooting Star

Shooting Star

Only two Shooting Stars were noted open today.

Trout Lily and distinctive liver mottled leaves

Trout Lily and distinctive liver mottled leaves

Last years peak Shooting Star bloom occurred around April 20th. This year is on par with last. The trails are too delightful to take note of the birds above. The wildflowers are putting on quite a show. Following the red trail northward, a second promontory, taller than the first, now has a dedicated bench.

Just installed today, April 14, 2017. Wayland's overlook up the trail from Pussy Toe Hill.

Just installed today, April 14, 2017. Wayland’s overlook up the trail from Pussy Toe Hill.

Wayland Eheart’s favorite view. “Wayland’s Spot.” This week, Wayland’s view will offer an abundance of flowers – especially Shooting Stars.

Continuing North on the Red trail until it crosses with the Blue Trail back to the Trailhead, Blue-eyed Mary line this trail. They are in full bloom now.

Blue-eyed Mary (Red/Blue trail)

Blue-eyed Mary (Red/Blue trail)

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

Transformation into a Jack in the Pulpit

Transformation into a Jack in the Pulpit

Only one fully formed Jack in the Pulpit was identified. Several leaf heads are ready to curl and transform into “Jacks.”

By next week, the Jacks in the Pulpit will be plentiful. The Green Trail is the best trail for Jacks in the Pulpit.

May Apple are now bifurcating. Clumps of Wild Ginger and



Bloodroot compete for ground space.

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Watercolor Vignettes – A Birding Year at Allerton Park

We are now in the fourth month of A Birding Year at Allerton. Anyone can join at anytime by ‘buying’ a free ticket through Event Brite. Allerton paid events and entries are now done through this on line app. The Event Brite app navigates easily to purchase tickets and make paid reservations to special events. The site also serves as a bulletin board to announce upcoming events.The app allows updates to those who purchased tickets. In this case the free ticket to A Birding Year at Allerton also provides a kind of subscription for information about current bird sightings and recommended places within the Park where one has the best opportunity to observe these birds. The Spring birds began to arrive early this year. Nuthatches and chickadees arrive at the tale end of winter. Bluebirds and cardinals arrive north about the same time. This year they were plentiful in thickets along the roadways.

Last week’s cover photo on the April 6, 2017, edition of the local newspaper featured a mature bald eagle. Great shot! The sheer size of a bald eagle never ceases to amaze and awe. The commentary quoted Allerton Natural Areas Director that bald eagle sightings at the Park are becoming increasingly common.

A benefit of participating in the Birding Year is the reporting database sponsored by Cornell University. The site requires subscription (free) and participants are asked to report bird sightings. Allerton Park is one of the listed locations, so reporting bird sightings as participants in the Birding Year is a relatively easy process on on line. If the birders reporting sightings are correct, the database will statistically demonstrate migration patterns. While walking or driving through the Park many birds can be identified with regularity. Participants are asked to report these birds repeatedly – every time. Not just the first time a bird is observed. The information is useful in determining territory. Consistency of reporting is a real problem. When Bird Sightings are secondary to the primary purpose for being in the Park is exercise and meditation, consistency of reporting become a problem. Although a bald eagle sighting will definitely bring one out of the ‘zone.’

PILEATED WOODPECKER - very large, distintive goofy call

PILEATED WOODPECKER – very large. has distintive goofy call

During the winter barrenness the Pileated Woodpecker is a striking figure in flight and when on the tree. Tufted Titmouse  can be confused for a duller female cardinal.

TUFTED TITMOUSE says "Pwe-e-e-t" in an upwards song.

TUFTED TITMOUSE says “Pwe-e-e-t” in an upwards song.

The Tufted Titmouse is smaller, the front torso is off white that becomes salmon under the wings. The tuft is less obvious than a cardinal’s. Event Bright news reports the arrival of Spring Warblers and kinglets. The now flooded floodplains offer many kinds of migrating ducks – wood ducks. Even pelicans have been sighted near Lodge Park. 

Last week, however, came the ultimate bird disrespect! On the walk home a vulture shrouded his roadkill protectively to prevent the intruder’s theft. Eventually the vulture yielded to the intruders path and perched in the tree above. But, before he could retrieve his squirrel, a park worker came along, stopped and scooped up the vulture’s prize for disposal.

Do I look like I WANT your roadkill? Vulture shrouding his prize.

Do I look like I WANT your roadkill?
Vulture shrouding his prize.

What are the possible morals to this event: ‘You get what you get.’ ‘What goes around, comes around.’ You snooze you lose, Too Bad for the Vulture.’ Hmmmm. That will be a good thought rat hole to pursue on this morning’s walk. 

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Watercolor Vignette – Park Groundskeepers / The Allerton Trails Half Marathon

The seasonal Park groundskeepers have returned to work. The mowing season kicked off early for everyone! The Groundskeepers are the seemingly invisible forces who manicure the landscape. during Robert’s tenure on his estate, now public park, the groundskeepers melted away when he took his daily stroll through the grounds. Invited guests, likewise, were not to be intruded upon by groundskeeping tasks. Even today, the groundskeepers strive to perform impeccable grooming to the grounds, while respecting the peace of the strolling visitor. During the week, mowers rachet, trimmers purr and leaf blowers protest as Park workers accomplish their tasks. The end result, by Friday, the Park magically waits, poised and ready to enchant the multitudes who stroll through the gardens, who play frisbee and sunbathe on the meadow slopes, who witness weddings and all who make lasting memories of their time in the Park.

Park Groundskeeper on the Job

Park Groundskeeper on the Job

On another note, The Park played host on March 31st and April 1st to the Allerton Trails Half-Marathon, 10K and 5K running races. Despite the heavy rains of the week, the usual muddy spots on the course had been remedied by recent trail upgrades and maintenance, overseen by the Natural Areas staff and workers. Park groundskeepers helped in the work of setting up and taking down the course.

Reis Desantis, age 21, took first place in the half-marathon (13.1 miles) with a time of 1 hour, 22 minutes and 56 seconds for a split pace of 6 minutes and 20 seconds. Alex Goodlad, age 23, earned first place in the Male overall 10K race with a time of 39 minutes 18 seconds for a split pace in the 6.2 mile race of of 6 minutes 20 seconds (on pace for 10K at least with the winning half-marathoner). Winning overall Women’s in the 10K with a time of 47 minutes 24 seconds was 40 year old Jennifer Dominick. Full results can be found on-line. The Second Wind Running Club hosts the on-line results.

Good job to all the runners who competed and to all the Park workers and volunteers who made this annual event happen.

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Watercolor Vignette – A Walk in the Park


Snow covered Hepatica


Snow Trillium under snow

The Park is awash in colors and textures. Wildflowers bloom abundantly throughout the Park. The wildflower season began early this year owing to the unseasonably warm temperatures in late February. On March 12th, Hepatica and Snow Trillium bloomed on the south facing slopes only to be covered in a three inch snowfall a few days later. After that snowfall, temperatures fell below zero over the course of the next three days. Despite the rough start to the season, the wildflowers are out in full force. Now is the time to ‘get your boots on and start hiking the Park.’

Dutchmen's Breeches in Bloom

Dutchmen’s Breeches in Bloom

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Denicheur d’Oursons – The Snatcher of Baby Bears

IMG_7156From the details of a published catalogue La Main et le Multiple, Emmanuel Fremiet, French animal sculptor cast only two of the life-sized bronze statues entitled Denicheur d’Oursons. IMG_8726Translated into English, the title means the snatcher of baby bears from the nest. Denicheur derives from the verb denicher which means to pluck from the nest. Denicheur means one who snatches from the nest.

Fremiet submitted the plaster model to the Salon of 1885 with the title Ours et homme de l’age de pierre (Bear and Stone Age Man). The group was renamed Denicheur d’Oursons when Fremiet cast the first bronze for the Paris zoo. The plaster model neither returned to Lille nor recovered. It is this second casting of Denicheur d’Oursons that stands in Allerton Park today. Fremiet executed smaller versions in terra cotta of a bear in combat with men.

IMG_8730The bronze is clearly signed by the artist, boldly on the lower front. The foundry mark is also clearly stamped on the lower reverse side – Lesblancs-Barbedianne.

LeBlanc-Barbedienne Strike of foundry. Catalogue does not indicate foundry.

LeBlanc-Barbedienne Strike of foundry. Catalogue does not indicate foundry.

The bronze group was neither dated nor numbered, but at the turn of the century and before, it was uncommon for works to be dated or numbered.

The Allerton Denicheur traveled in the 1980 Tour – The Romantics to Rodin.

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The Gorilla Carrying-Off a Woman

img_6541The Fremiet group entitled Gorille Enlevant une Femme, translated Gorilla Carrying-off a woman, and commonly referred to locally at The Gorilla, made its spectacular debut at the Salon of 1887. IMG_7119Fremiet’s previous version in 1859 titled Gorilla carrying-off a Negro woman, Gorille enlevant une Negresse was refused by the Salon’s jury. It was made of plaster. Although this predecessor was refused by the jury, it was nevertheless installed in a private gallery and garnered much attention. It was later destroyed in a violent strike by Belgian workers. Fremiet cast only one of this previous Gorilla in bronze. The final, more refined and better balance group of the Gorilla was submitted in plaster to the Salon of 1887 where it won the esteemed prize of Medal of Honor.

1910 - Biez - public domaine - - Plaster Model of Gorilla 1889 Salon - Medaille d'Honneur (Grand Prize - Medal of Honor) this Plaster model is in the permanent collection of the Musee de Nantes

1910 – Biez – public domaine – – Plaster Model of Gorilla 1889 Salon – Medaille d’Honneur (Grand Prize – Medal of Honor)
this Plaster model is in the permanent collection of the Musee de Nantes

This plaster group is now held at the Art Museum of Nantes, France. The Allerton Park bronze Gorilla Carrying-off a woman may be the only casting in bronze executed in this monumental size.

Gorilla Signature. Serpent climbs beneath.

Fremiet Signature. Serpent climbs beneath.

Fremiet signed the front base. Note the serpent climbing ominously beneath the signature. The foundry strike is on the reverse base.

Foundry strike on base of Gorilla. By 1900, Fremiet had moved production to the foundry Barbedienne. Although Fremiet used both in some early works.

Foundry strike on base of Gorilla. By 1900, Fremiet had moved production to the foundry Barbedienne. Although Fremiet used both foundries over time


Following the success of the Gorilla at the 1887 Salon, Fremiet offered a large production of the Gorilla. This reduction was produced in an unknown quantity. One such reduced replica was gifted to the Art Museum of Melbourne, Australia, by Fremiet. Fremiet had been commissioned to produce a casting of his monumental Jeanne d’Arc statue for the newly established museum, complete with gold gilting. Unable to procure gold for the massive piece, Fremiet included the reduced Gorilla as compensation for his incomplete work. In the 1980, The Romantics to Rodin tour, Mr. and Mrs. Morris Rosenberg, of Memphis, TN loaned their bronze reduction of Gorilla enlevant une femme.

Fremiet appealed without success to the French government multiple times to commission a bronze cast of the Gorilla group to accompany the Bear installed at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Fremiet conceived of the Gorilla and Bear to be a complimentary pair examining the same subject of hunter and prey. IMG_8664Fremiet interchanged the Bear and Gorilla in his works. IMG_71562016-12-1-bear-and-man-struggleHe portrayed the animal combatants locked in struggle with a man or woman. IMG_8695Both bear and gorilla assume man-like positions in combat. The male Gorilla carries off  a swooning, female hunter, who struggles and pushes against him. He has been wounded himself, but both will live. As for the bear group, the mother bear has suffered an undoubtedly mortal wound. Her cub hangs lifeless from the belt of a dying male hunter. All three face death. The juxtaposition of the male to female, along with the struggle creates a palpable tension in three dimension.

Fremiet included the detail of the ridged palate of the Bear's opened mouth

Fremiet included the detail of the ridged palate of the Bear’s opened mouth

Fremiet’s tenure at the National History Museum where he had access to skeletons, animal subjects and prehistoric artifacts is evident in he details he incorporated in his pieces. IMG_6809

As the only bronze casting of the Gorilla group, the Allerton Gorilla takes on added significance and value. While both the Bear and Gorilla have significance as notable monumental sized works of art by an accomplished animalier, in the art world scarcity significantly impacts value. By provenance of signature as a lifetime cast of the artist, the value is again significantly increased. The Allerton Bear is the second of two casts. The Gorilla may be the only one. Both are museum worthy works of art, but are on public display in a particularly accessible, if not vulnerable, manner.

Unlike the museum setting, these bronze works can be touched to feel the texture created by Fremiet’s chisel. They can be stroked to feel the smooth coldness of the metal. Your fingertips can explore smooth slopes or hard, defined edges. The intensity of the powerful struggle erupts in such close proximity in the woodland setting.

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The Fremiet Bronzes – The Bear and The Gorilla

A catalogue raisonee refers to the 1899-1900 commission of the Park’s Denicheur  and Gorille. IMG_8696The Rock Island politician and railroad tycoon, Ransom Cable, commissioned the pair. Ransom’s family owned he Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, commonly referred in song and legend as the Rock Island Line. Mr. Cable intended the pair for his alma mater, the University of Michigan, but the pair were never installed there.


Instead the two bronze groups exhibited on loan at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. At some point, probably in the late 1920’s, Ransom’s widow loaned them to Lordado Taft to display in his wished-upon museum of fine art. Taft’s collection of the great world art never came to fruition. The two bronze pieces flanked the exterior red door of Taft’s Midway Studio on the grounds of the University of Chicago.

Lorado Taft died in 1936. The contents of his Midway Studio were purchased by the University of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune, reported on May 18, 1937, that Taft’s Midway Studios would be open to the public one final time, after which the contents were to be removed for ‘permanent exhibition’ at the University of Illinois. The two Fremiet bronzes were ‘erroneously’ included in the contents. The bronze pair came to what was, at the time, Robert Allerton’s private estate for ‘storage’. At the time, Robert and John Gregg Allerton were on an around the world cruise, departing in February, 1937, on the Queen Mary, to return in the mainland US in February, 1938, with a month layover in Hawaii. Dr. Allen Weller, an aspiring young associate professor, who was well liked and known by the Allerton’s was responsible for the pair’s deposit at the Allerton estate. Robert was indifferent to them. They didn’t belong to him and they were never installed within the gardens. When the Allertons gifted their estate to the University of Illinois in 1947, the two bronze creations, likewise, seemingly came with the estate, even though they were not installed within the gardens or woodlands like their other art holdings nor are they included in the contents of the estate gift. Dr. Weller would dedicate the rest of his academic career at the University of Illinois as a scholar of the life and works of Lorado Taft, tracing the path of a great American art scholar. The procurement of Taft’s personal papers and correspondence formed a significant body of Weller’s study, research and writings for the balance of his career at the University of Illinois rising to become Dean of the School of Fine Arts.

Red doors of Taft's Midway Studios

Red doors of Taft’s Midway Studios

If the two bronze groups were not so large and heavy, it would be easier to understand how the pair could have been collected along with the contents of Taft’s studios on the campus of the University of Chicago. The Gorilla and Bear flanked the exterior red doors of Taft’s Midway Studios. A small crane would have been required to lift and load the large bronzes. Dr. Weller must have had forethought and intention in order to have purloined the pair. And then, as if to conceal their whereabouts, they were taken to a very private estate with restricted access. It seems in looking at this in hindsight, Dr. Weller executed a well-planned art heist. Robert Allerton and John Gregg may well have been uninformed of their depositing in 1937 due to their absence, but they certainly became aware of them upon return from their world cruise. 1959 archive correspondence indicates the two bronze groups were not hidden from view and the University readily acknowledged that the Bear and Gorilla statues were on loan, and not owned by the University.

The Allerton estate opened to the public in 1948 as Robert Allerton Park. From 1937 until 1959 the Gorilla and Bear stood off the road next to a storage shed. From a letter written in 1959, it appears the pair were stored, off display. The University directed Dean Allen Wellen to inquire into the provenance and ownership of the Gorilla and the Bear which would soon lead to their gifting by the Ransom Cable’s daughter-in-law later that year. In the same year the pair were installed on the that leads east from the Foo Dog Garden around the goldfish pond. 

In 1977, the newly established and built Krannert Art Museum of the University of Illinois became the official owners, although they remained installed on the grounds of Allerton Park. In 1980, the Bear toured the United States as part of a large exhibit organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) entitled The Romantics to Rodin. Besides Los Angeles, the tour included stops in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Indianapolis. The Allerton Gorilla did not tour in this exhibition. Instead, the Gorilla group was represented by a reduction that was mass produced after the success following the 1887 Salon. The smaller grouping measures 17.5 inches high, 12 inches wide and a diameter of 15.5 inches compared to the life-sized Gorilla on exhibit at the Park.The Gorilla group was loaned by a Tennessee family.

After the tour, the Bear was returned to the Park until 1989 when, in response to controversy against racism, sexism and animal cruelty and threats to ‘melt them down’ both the Bear and Gorilla were taken off exhibit and placed in storage on the Allerton grounds. Their storage ended in 2006 when they were exhibited on loan at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Following their return in 2007, the Fremiet pair were put on permanent exhibit in the Kinkaede Pavilion at the Krannert Art Museum on the campus of the University of Illinois. There, the bronze pair remained in their windowed sun room until last October, 2016, when they were re-installed at Allerton Park very near their original installation site of 1959. What a circuitous trajectory for these magnificent works of art.

In a recent February, 2017, Sotheby auction, a Fremiet bronze of a different subject matter and smaller size sold. It’s pre-auction estimate was $25-50,000. It sold for $140,000.

Like the Bourdelle Centaur installed at the opposite end of the Park and further on, the Sunsinger, these works represent significant museum quality pieces. Of the four, the Sunsinger seems to have weathered the elements the worst. That the Gorilla and Bear were stored or exhibited in protection from the elements and vandals is to their benefit. The Centaur has been exposed since his installation in 1924. He has weathered well with little maintenance.

Time Line of the Fremiet Bronze Pair – Denicher d’Oursons and Gorille Enlevant une Femme

1899 – Commissioned from Emmanuel Fremiet by the Honorable Ransom Cable

1900 – Arrived in the United States

1900-circa 1930 – on outdoor display at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC

1930-1937 – on outdoor display at Midway Studios, Chicago, IL – University of Chicago

1937-1959 – in outdoor storage on the Allerton estate / Allerton Park

1959-1989 – on outdoor woodland installation on a maintained trail at Allerton Park

1980 – Denicheur travels with The Romantics to Rodin Tour – Returned to woodland

1989-2007 – in indoor storage at Allerton Park

2007 – on indoor display at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

2007-2016 – on indoor display at Kinkaede Pavilioin, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois

2016-Present – on outdoor woodland installation on a well maintained trail. The trail is accessible from the House, but in may experience temporary flooding along the flood plain. The Northeast corner of the Main Parking offers a good launching point for a short hike trail loop of slightly moderate intensity. Repellant is advisable from Memorial Day until Labor Day.

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All is Bright – Tuesdays – Saturdays Through January 15

img_7401ALL IS BRIGHT at The Park. Kirby Medical Center in Monticello is partnering with Allerton Park to bring people out of doors to enjoy an evening walk through a lighted magic land.img_7312img_7317img_7407img_7291
The path from the main parking lot to the House and finally to the Visitor’s Center is lined with strategically placed flood lights, dazzling twinkle lights and subdued back lighting.
Thursday, December 2, was the opening night of the light show. img_7044The Monticello High School Madrigals sang in the Courtyard. Amazing performance. img_7048Even the toddlers were  enchanted with the music and lights. img_7064


In the Brick Garden, the bell choir from Grace UMC from Urbana serenaded with familiar carols and Christmas tunes.


Warm drinks, cookies and fruit were offered to attendees in the Visitors Center.

img_7290While the live performances were a wonderful addition to the All is Bright Wellness Walk on December 2nd, subsequent visits to this holiday wonderland in the quiet of the evening have been equally inspiring.

The Park, usually closed at sunset (or 5 PM in Winter), is open for the public to enjoy the Wellness Walk from 5-8 PM, Tuesday’s thru Saturdays. The event ends January 15th, 2017. Kirby Medical Center wants to encourage the public to take an evening walk for wellness.img_7235

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The Fremiet Gorilla – Gorille Enlevant une Femme

Two bronze sculptures surprise the unsuspecting visitor walking the trail at Robert Allerton Park (aka ‘The Park’). Commonly just referred to as The Bear and The Ape or Gorilla, the pair are masterpiece works of art by Emmanuel Fremiet. They are signed by the artist and stamped by the Foundries that produced them.

Who is the hunted?

Who is the hunted?


Above the deep wound, is this a spear shaft protruding, or is the vent for the casting?

Above the deep wound, is this a spear shaft protruding, or is the vent for the casting?

The female huntress wears the Gorilla Totem in her hair

The female huntress wears the Gorilla Totem in her hair

1910 reference title - Gorille enlevant une negresse

1910 reference title – Gorille enlevant une negresse

The Bear Snatcher

The Bear Snatcher

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