We rated the cutest animals in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum!

A comprehensive guide to the adorable animals that can be found in Fitz

Like many students, I enjoy having such a great museum as the Fitzwilliam so close at hand in Cambridge. That’s why I thought I would share with you the underappreciated, niche category of cute animal figures that I discovered when I visited on a free afternoon!

From bronzes and paintings to porcelain figures and vase scenes there is a wealth of adorable animals in the Fitzwilliam which need to be promoted. So, without further ado, here is a small sample of my personal favourites.

Noble guardians (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

The Museum’s Lion Guards

I’d like to start with the Victorian lions which guard the outside of the Museum itself. Not your typical ‘cute’ animal depiction, but they are both noble and endearing, especially the way they fold their paws over the edge of their plinths. 8/10 for cuteness. 10/10 for elegance and sophistication (plus I would love to meet when they come alive at midnight to drink from the Trumpington Street gutters).

Glittering gold (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

Gold of the Steppe exhibition

Moving inside to the dazzling “Gold of the Steppe” exhibition and to the gold Argali (mountain sheep). A stunning and intricate design that carries an elegant stillness. 8/10 as I would love to be a mountain sheep chilling on a cloud.

Watching you like a hawk (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

Turquoise Hawk

Next up is this 12th Century moulded stone paste Hawk from Iran. Turns out that simple and limited line work is very effective at creating a sense of movement and character. 10/10- it’s the little head tilt and raises of the left leg which gets me.

A cursed object (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

 A horror show

Right, prepare yourself, this is not for the faint-hearted, get ready for *cue dramatic and screeching violin music* Staffordshire salt-glazed bear jugs.  -10000/10 absolutely terrifying, made worse by the knowledge that the heads can detach to serve as cups, will haunt your nightmares. Plus, the design is based upon the 18th-century tradition of chaining bears and forcing them to perform.

Porcelain pooch (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

Energetic lapdog

Back to genuine cuteness – whilst most painting or sculpture eyes can be creepy as they follow you around the museum, this porcelain pooch seems to simply be asking for pats and belly rubs. From 18th century Vincennes, the detail picking up individual strands of fur helps to create an energy in the figure, aided by the lift of the front left paw. 9/10 would love to pet!

Never have a boar-ing day out at a museum again! (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

Tremendous terracotta

Next up, this Terracotta boar from fifth-century Cyprus. He might not have any discernible facial features, but the different ways his front and back feet have been sculpted give him a sense of motion and the careful sculpting of the bridge of his nose and grooves of his ears make him appear alert. 9/10 – very sweet!

A tenta-cool sherd! (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

A Classic

I wouldn’t be able to call myself a Classicist if I didn’t include an example of Greek (Minoan) octopus pottery. It may only be a small sherd from a stirrup jar excavated at Phylakopi, but it’s all you need to lift your spirits. Look at those eyes! And the way the little suckers and tentacles fan out in front of him!  10/10 such a cutie!

Good boys (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

Nero’s dogs

This limestone stela, dedicated in honour of the cult of Emperor Nero features two dogs in mirror positions. Despite this, the two are ever so slightly different, with the one on the left having more squared-off paws and a thinner body. As a result, it gives the impression that these are two good boys who are greeting each other nose to nose, whilst the single lines for their eyes make it seem as though they are closed. 10/10 very cute.

Tygers at play (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

Tyger Tyger burning bright

Despite his realistic anatomical drawings of horses, Stubbs seems to have fallen short at the realism of these ‘Tygers at Play’ – not that I’m complaining! Both tygers have a Disney-esque, round cuteness, in a pose which seems like it should best fit house cats rather than ‘Tygers’. 9/10 very playful.

Handsome hedgehog (Image credit: Emilia Whitehead)

My personal favourite

Last but most certainly not least, the one who started it all – this little Egyptian faience hedgehog absolutely has my heart, 1000/10. His worried little eyebrows, little ears and elegant, charming shape are just adorable and I would buy ten of these on the spot if the museum sold replicas.

As I said, this is only a small selection so next time you go to the Fitzwilliam Museum do look out for any cute animals, intentional or otherwise, who grab your attention!

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