This satirical piece, unofficially named “Battle of the Frogs” by National Geographic was found in the Time Capsule Museum in Paris, France. Although not discovered until recently when the Time Capsule Museum opened up after being closed for one hundred years, this piece dates back to the 1800’s and seems to still be relevant to our sense of humor today. “Battle of the Frogs” features a small diorama where two taxidermy frogs are engaging in a duel, and one has struck the other through the heart. The diorama seems to be a parody to the nature of dueling, something that many civilized men engaged in in the Western world. The rather silly look of a taxidermy frog makes the piece more whimsical than critical, but it nonetheless makes a statement about this particular human hobby, while still making us laugh.
On dueling, historian blogger Virginia Johnson points out that from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century gentlemen engaged in duels to protect their honor. This activity was seen as elegant, and of course, honorable. In contrast, the nature of the frog body provides little elegance when engaged in this activity, but the personification of the frogs in this act becomes humorous. The ridiculous expression of the frog’s bulging eyes and half open mouth is also ultimately amusing, and so, picturing two frogs in the act of a great duel for honor is on its own satirical. With the ridiculous display it makes of the frogs, the artwork is a satire on the 1800’s idea of honor. These satires remind us that we are all simply human; we all share certain follies and make mistakes. This artwork makes a wordless display and a gentle, inoffensive poke at humanity.
While the artwork would most likely not inspire any great change in people’s way of thinking on the of topic duels, it still offers us a perspective of duels and death, and perhaps also a perspective into the sense of humor of a fellow human from the nineteenth century. In this piece, the artist satirizes the society of the time by poking fun at a widely accepted form of settling disputes: dueling. The frogs in the work ridicule people for engaging in such an act. The fact that we find this artwork amusing even today, exposes the fact that we are not too far from our ancestors’ senses of humor. But most importantly, the work shows how animals can be used as a tool to ridicule humanity.