Many of the world’s most famous artists and authors owned animals, some of which were featured in their works. We’ve all heard about painter Edward Munch’s dog, Rolle who he took to the movies and Emily Dickinson’s Newfoundland, Carlo who was mentioned in some of her poems, but there are some artists who took the more exotic route when choosing their pets. From lions to bears, here’s a list of the most unusual animals owned by the world’s most creative people.
1. Frida Kahlo’s Deer – Granizo
Frida Kahlo was the proud owner of what many people would call a zoo. Not only did she own several monkeys and parrots, but she also owned a Xoloitzcuintli dog. She loved her pets so much that they were featured in more than one-third of her paintings. But her favorite by far, was her dear deer Granizo. The deer can be seen posing with her in several photos and was known for sleeping next to her. Granizo also served as the inspiration for Frida’s famed painting “Wounded Deer,” where she portrayed herself as the animal.
2. Charles Dickens’ Raven – Grip
Charles Dickens was a famous author best known for the novels David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. He is also known for the book Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty, which happened to be inspired by his pet raven, Grip. The bird is also believed to be the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. When the bird died, he had it preserved and kept the stuffed bird on his desk to inspire him. When Dickens died, Grip was auctioned to an American collector. Today Grip can be found at the Free Library in Logan Circle in Philadelphia.
3. Lord Byron’s Bear
British romantic poet Lord Byron is best remembered for his satirical poems Don Juan and for being the father of Ada Lovelace, but those who know his history also know that he loved his pets. While studying at Trinity College, he was known for bringing his favorite dog Boatswain onto the college campus which was against the rules. Annoyed that he could not bring his dog to school, the Lord brought a tame bear to live with him at the college. Since the rules never mentioned a bear, Byron was allowed to keep him and was often seen walking the bear on a chain.
4. Flannery O’Connor’s Chicken
Long before Flannery O’Connor became famous for writing “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, she was known as the five-year-old whose buff Cochin Bantam chicken walked backwards. Her fascinating fowl became so famous that the pair was featured on a 1932 newsreel, which can be viewed today. Flannery was fond of dressing her bird in clothes that she sewed herself. She also owned an emu, a toucan, and a few peacocks.
5. Princess Vilma Lwof-Parlaghy’s Lion – Goldfleck
Princess Vilma Lwof-Parlaghy is best known for being the only person to paint Nikola Tesla as she was the only one he posed for in his life. After a brief marriage to a Russian prince, she moved to New York where she saw and fell in love with a lion at a circus. When the owners refused to sell it to her, he had a friend get it for her and she named him Goldfleck. The lion and several other animals lived with her in her Plaza Hotel suite, right next to Central Park where she was often seen walking him. Goldfleck died two years later and was laid to rest at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.
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