Historic Veterinary Teaching Horse Restored
PARIS, France--The famous Auzoux Horse, one of the first veterinary teaching aids of its kind, has been restored to its former glory thanks to a €50,000 grant from Pfizer Animal Health.
The papier-mâché model dates back to 1846 and was initially created to allow veterinary students to mimic a dissection without having to use an actual cadaver, an unpleasant and dangerous choice in an era when it was not uncommon for people to die of complications from a simple cut. It is labelled and can be completely taken apart, offering a hyper-realistic, precisely detailed overview of a horse’s anatomy, comparable to what one might learn through dissection.
When the first prototype was created in 1844 by physician Louis Auzoux, it was a revolutionary teaching aid for veterinary students.
The restored model is one of the main attractions of the Fragonard Museum at the Alfort National Veterinary School [École nationale vétérinaire d’Alfort (ENVA)], which has earned the prestigious ‘Musée de France’ [Museum of France] quality label. It is one of the earliest of its kind and was produced during the first attempts to market this unusual object.
The first models sold were commissioned by the French Ministry of War, for the cavalry schools and remount depots, at a time when horses played a pivotal role in daily life, not only in the military but also in agriculture and transport.
In addition to papier-mâché, the Auzoux Horse is also made of metal, wood and vegetable fibres, all held together with isinglass. It weighs 65 kg, stands 1.58 m tall and is 1.67 cm long. Built on a 75% scale, it has many movable and removable parts.
The restoration, which was funded entirely by Pfizer Animal Health, was begun in mid-November 2011 by an internationally acclaimed multidisciplinary team coordinated by Atelier Marchal-Poncelet. The work took four months to complete and was carried out at the Fragonard Museum’s workshops in Maisons-Alfort.
The work was performed in two stages: completion of the restoration of the left side, filling in gaps and fixing discolourations, and restoration of the right side and left forelimb.
The newly restored horse can now be seen and appreciated once more by visitors the the Fragonard Museum at the Alfort National Veterinary School.
A dozen model horses by Auzoux can be found in the scientific collections of museums around the world (Lyon, Toulouse, Madrid, London, Halle, New Delhi, etc.).
The team assembled for the project consisted of six heritage conservationists-restorers, brought together by Paris-based Atelier Marchal-Poncelet.
Caroline Marchal and Jim Poncelet, co-owners of Atelier Marchal-Poncelet, hold master’s degrees in the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage from the University of Paris I [Université Paris I] and specialise in documents and graphic works.
Elizabet Nijhoff Asser, a graphic-art, parchment and book conservationist, manages the Mooie Boeken workshop in Amsterdam. She had previously overseen the restoration work of papier-mâché anatomical models by Dr Auzoux held by the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden, Netherlands.
E. Manu Giaccone, an independent graphic-art conservationist based in the Netherlands, worked for nine years at Elizabet Nijhoff Asser’s workshop. She has collaborated extensively on the restoration of the Boerhaave Museum collection.
Ségolène Walle holds a master’s degree in the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage from the University of Paris I. A specialist in graphic documents and books, she completed an internship at the Mooie Boeken workshop, where she participated in the restoration of several Auzoux models. She joined the staff at Atelier Marchal-Poncelet a few months ago.
Pauline Morlot graduated in June 2011 from the Avignon School of Fine Art [École Supérieure d’Art d’Avignon] and specialises in the restoration of objets d’art and scientific objects. She wrote her thesis on papier-mâché anatomical models of gorillas.
About the Fragonard Museum
The Fragonard Museum at the Alfort National Veterinary School is one of the oldest museums in France and heir to the ‘Cabinet du Roi’, the original collection of artwork and curiosities founded in 1766 at the world’s second-oldest veterinary school. The museum has withstood the centuries, revolutions and wars, and today boasts an outstanding collection devoted to animals displayed in a fascinating setting.
The museum holds over 4,200 objects related to animal anatomy and pathology, including more than 400 exquisite plaster casts, making it one of the largest collections in this field in France.
Its international renown is partially due to the famous écorché figures by Honoré Fragonard, a cousin of the painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard and the school’s first professor of anatomy. These are the museum’s treasures, its oldest pieces, and they have been known to European naturalists since the 18th century. Dismissed at the turn of the 20th century as vestiges of a bygone science, they have been re-embraced today as valuable pieces of cultural heritage and rare scientific objects.
About Pfizer Animal Health
Pfizer Animal Health, a Pfizer Inc. company, is a world leader in the discovery and development of innovative veterinary medicinal products and vaccines and allocates nearly $300 million (£190 million) a year to Research and Development. Pfizer Animal Health works hard to assure a safe global food supply from healthy farm animals and to help companion animals live longer, healthier lives.