Computer Assisted Taxidermy

Introduction

I've been working on such a project for almost as long as I've been searching... The making of a real full size Beast of Gévaudan, according to the report of autopsy by maître Marin, but also something that could fit the description that people made of it when they saw it. A monster-like creature, not dog nor wolf... But for every project you need a plan.

I made mine in matches-wood. Smile if you like but that's the truth, as testified by these two pictures below:

Beast made out of matches

Funny result ; well, it's been funny to make it too (!). But with no reference to anything, it's useless. So I made a man, also with matches:

Beast and a human made out of matches

But as I am no genius in computers, it was impossible for me to go any further, so the miniature ended up on a shelf. One day, it died from another of my cat attacks, I've been forced to dump it. But it would take a miracle for me to go on in such a project.

So a miracle it was. Named Lionel, infographist and newly passionate in the case of the Beast, he was looking for someone who could tell him everything about the look of the Beast, in order to make a digital model of it...

Cal that luck, coïncidence, make your choice. After a smal talk we knew each oither's point of view. We agreed quickly o the way to proceed: create a webpage so that anyone could see how we did, and once this first project is over, find a way to make it full size (yes, we found ourselves to be as dreamer as each other).

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First dimension

So I sent him everything I had about the dimensions of the Beast, the report by Marin and the letter from Auvergne and all the visual drawings I had made since I started. A few days later, I received an e-mail with this:

Planche 2

For a simple start, Lionel put the measurements as seen in the report by Marin on a standard dog shape. The drawing is not at the dimension written, it was more a matter of "are we talking about the same parts of the anatomy than maître Marin?". As maître Marin was no naturalist there are details which are too much described - ex : the "peculiar membrane" of the eye is in fact the nictitant membrane, which role is to act like a wiper under the eyelid of most fline and canine in the world - and other details that it would have been intersting to know more about have been like forgotten.

As I'm no veterinarian, I needed someone sure. This project of Beast, Lionel and I want it to be as real as possible, although it is already subject to caution since it is based on maître Marin's report that describes an animal that everyone does not recognize as the true Beast of Gevaudan. So we needed an officiel helping hand.

I naturally thought about Franz Jullien who is director of the modeling section in the National Museum of Natural History , and who became more like a friend since the day we met for my first documentary. He was happy to help, and we were happy he did!

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All over again

Franz forced us to start all over again: as a taxidermist, he told us to start with a skull of canine instead of a shape, which could condition all the work. So Lionel did his part and made a first modelization. Wooden boxes show the main partsof the animation, and they're then replaced by a skull. You can still recall a bit of the "matches" global shape, which Lionel used for his work.

Click on "play"

The Beast seems to have uite an impressive size, yet there is a significant mistake in this production: the size of human beings is today's (2008), so 180 cm for men, 160 cm for women and 130 cm for children. But I have investigated on the Inrenet and found many websites talking about ancient sizes, and they all give the same size for people living in the middle of the eighteenth century: 167 cm for a grown man. It changes a lot because if the animal was pretty big for a 180 cm tall man, it's bigger for the size of man in the 18th century. Check for yourself:

Click on "play"

Put some long hair on it, fangs showing, we're almost there! But the only purpose of this work is to show the size compared to that of man. We then had to make a skull with the right measurement.

Partie 3

Above: The Beast – first step of skull

I know it's worth nothing with nothing to compare it to, it's coming. ;-) Here is now an attempt of head skull. Or should I say this is "an interpretation of what could have been the head of the Beast killed by Jean Chastel, autopsied by sieur Boulangier - apothicary -, seen and described by maître Marin, royal notary". But I admit it's not the shortest way.

Partie 4 - Crâne 01

Impressive, huh?
Good to know: allthe measures are those of the report by Marin, including the size of the teeth but they are only at the status of sketch. It will take at least thirty hours more to make it more "correctly"(according to Lionel's own words).

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Examples

While the head is being done, I've been searching one problem in maître Marin's report. He wrote : "It aws welcome to notice that the rib do not look like a wolf's, which allowded this animal the freedom to turn backon himself, while wolf's ribs are put such as he can not do that so easily".

But what does it mean? There were, according to maître Marin and the lettre from Auvergne, to study the animal the day it died mister Boulangier, A de La Mothe, M de la Tour d'Auvergne, the marquis and the count of Apcher, the hunters, etc.... A lot of people who must have had a word to say about the Beast, making maître Marin writting whatever was said. His descrption may sound disjointed and sometimes contradictory, or a little wobbly, but is relatively confirmed by the letter from Auvergne.

So Marin writes everything he's told, but who told him the ribs were unusally placed? A hunter? A peasant? Who knows. MOreover, if you closely look at the ribs of different animals such as the wolf or hybrid dog/wolf, one can see the ribs have nothing unusual.

Squelette de loup de profil.
A wolf.

Hybride de chienne et de loup
A hybrid of female dog and male wolf.

What credit can we give to this point? None what so ever. At least that's what Franz told me and I trus him for everything concerning animal anatomy. So Lionel must improve his first work and add the spatulas, which would theorically rise all the front of the body. Well, we'll see.

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Head

It has tagken more than fourty hours of work to get to this very convincing result of the head of the beast killed by Jean Chastel. We still need to ajustate a few things though.

Partie 5 - Crâne 02



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ANNEXES

Puce rapport Marin Rapport Marin Format .pdf ; Acrobate Reader nécessaire.
Puce lettre d'Auvergne La lettre d'Auvergne
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