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This vintage sloth sequence wants to hang out on your wall

Animal Locomotion: Plate 70 (Sloth) by Eadweard Muybridge
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) |16"x20" ($240)

Cold weather isn’t good at the graceful exit. This time of year, we start to wonder when winter’s gonna take a bow — the slowness of coat season is no more excruciating than two weeks before the official start of spring (except maybe one week before spring). So to put a peppy spin on slowness, we’re turning our attention to a supremely happy-making sort of slow: the sloth!

If you’re not savvy to the sloth, get with it. These shaggy, mammalian treetop denizens are the ultimate chillers, spending most of their time motionless, hanging out upside down in the greenery. They are the laid-back, low-key cool kids of the rainforest, and we love them (though, as an important reminder, Kristen Bell loves them more). Groundbreaking 19th century photog Eadweard Muybridge must have also been a fan, because he included them in the art-meets-science animal locomotion series for which he’s most widely known. It was a particularly interesting decision given that unlike every other animal Muybridge photographed, the sloth makes maybe two full motions across all 12 plates. The arboreal critter in Animal Locomotion: Plate 750 (Sloth) may not be winning any marathons, but he/she’s won our hearts.

We’re excited to add Animal Locomotion: Plate 750 (Sloth) to our growing Muybridge collection and not just because we’re of a mind that sloths are magical creatures sent to earth to make days markedly better. This piece stands apart. It’s the only edition in our Muybridge mix where the animal is upside down. Researching the image, we spotted sources that displayed it the other way around, with the sloth’s feet toward the bottom of the frame. Of course, any sloth aficionado [editor’s note: if there’s an official group for sloth-obsessees we don’t know about, plz elaborate] knows that this splendid, sluggish beast prefers life topsy-turvy. As we’ve covered, sloths are diehard hanger-ons. For that reason it seemed obvious that this edition was meant to be exhibited sloth toes toward the top. You’ll notice this sloth is also the only non-human subject in our assortment to have his own accessory: a big, broad branch perfect for dangling — the sloth equivalent of a Birkin bag.

Today’s edition comes from a larger body of work that involved, in part, borrowing dozens of exotic animals from the Philadelphia Zoo for his photographic purposes. Animal Locomotion: Plate 750 (Sloth) was published in 1887 alongside 780 other plates in Muybridge’s eleven-volume tome Electro-Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements, an encyclopedic study of human and animal motion. Muybridge’s idea behind this comprehensive project was to capture movement in its component parts, so it might be better studied by scientists. The resulting images are more than important milestones in image-making. They’re a reminder that there’s grace and art in nature, and marvel in movement.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200