Aren't we all speechless at the ultimate beauty nature has to offer? Don't we all want to capture it and indulge these images forever? Traditional taxidermy seems just a poor attempt to preserve this kind of beauty. A wannabe version of the elegance and brightness many creatures have to offer. The work of Darwin, Sinke and van Tongeren offers something else.



To seize animals in all their glory we've been studying old Dutch masters like Weenix, Hondecoeter and van Olen. In the 17th century they managed to portray the exotic animals – that were brought in by explorers like Darwin – in such a way it showed every flamboyant detail. Working in their style helps us to make our animals look so alive and scintillating. Giving them a stage with the finest selection of antique materials. Makes it even more unique and desirable.



Sinke & van Tongeren have been creating and working together for almost two decades. They teamed up to do film, advertising, graphic design and taxidermy. Besides that van Tongeren also works for the Dutch Museum of Natural History in Leiden. Preparing for the very important scientific collection enables him to learn a broad variety of techniques and spend time with one of the larges and oldest taxidermy collections in the world.



Sinke & van Tongeren recognize the value of history. Both in an artistic and scientific way. We also cherish the patience, perseverance and craftsmanship of these passed times. We use all of this to create fine taxidermy with a quality you haven't seen for a long time. For those who can appreciate and afford it we offer a true investment of passion.




Ferry van Tongeren and Jaap Sinke in conversation 
with Helen Chislett

Can you start by explaining the name of your studio?
    Ferry: You mean why is Darwin included in our title? Because we regard him as our Executive Director, part of the inspiration for what we do.
    Jaap: We wanted to make the point that our taxidermy is dedicated to showing the beauty and magic of nature, something that Charles Darwin would surely have agreed.

Why taxidermy?
    Ferry: I always had a huge interest in natural history. I started collecting animal skulls when I was a boy, and I was fascinated by taxidermy and how animals and birds were portrayed by Old Masters such as Jan Weenix, Melchior d’Hondecoeter and Adriaen van Olen. In the 17th century, these great artists set out to portray the wonder of the exotic animals brought back to Europe by explorers such as Darwin. They remain an inspiration.
    Jaap: To be honest, I never saw myself becoming a taxidermist! However, my father was a vet, and in art school I specialised for a year in learning to draw anatomically correct animals. When Ferry suggested I join him in this new venture, it seemed like a natural progression.

How did you set about this extraordinary change in career?
    Ferry: It didn’t occur to me that I could actually be a taxidermist until I sold my advertising agency, Doom & Dickson in 2000. I made some money and took my family travelling – a gap year in effect – and halfway round the world, I decided I wanted to learn taxidermy. I can’t explain why: it just happened. I came back and, with great difficulty, persuaded a skilled taxidermist I knew to let me work for him for a year unpaid. That led to me working part-time as a taxidermist at the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden, one of the oldest and largest taxidermy collections in the world, where I continue to extend my knowledge of traditional techniques.
    Jaap: As Ferry learnt new techniques, he passed them onto me. However, we have different specialities. When a new creature comes in, I make sketches for the possible poses and then we work together to make the frames. Ferry undertakes the more complicated taxidermy, but I add a lot of the artistic touches, such as painting the birds’ bills and beaks. They go black when preserved and most taxidermists airbrush them for speed. I make sure they are painted in layers until they really glow. 

Is taxidermy the smelly, bloody business we imagine it is?
    Ferry: Not at all. In effect, you are simply taking the jacket off the creature in its entirety. If you do it properly there is no blood and no odour. People think it is cruel and gruesome, but it is neither.
    Jaap: People imagine we kill animals to mount and that we empty them with a spoon while covered in blood! In fact we save them from the garbage can. Millions of these beautiful animals go into the trash every day somewhere in the world. We like to think we give our animals new life. 

Where do you find these animals?
    Ferry: It is not as easy as you might think. The taxidermist who trained me made me promise I would never poach his own network of breeders, zoos and animal sanctuaries. It has taken a long time to build our own contacts. Holland was the first country to outlaw the catching of birds from the wild, so we have a long history of breeding exotice birds in our country. These animals all have the necessary documentation. Even when they are dead. 
    Jaap: What we don’t do is stuff someone’s pet for them! Neither do we take on trophy taxidermy (animals killed from hunting). Our specimens come from all over the world, but we still have a long wish-list in our heads.

Why is Fine Taxidermy different from other taxidermy?
    Ferry: For one thing, most taxidermists use factory moulds so nearly every type of animal has one ubiquitous pose. Jaap and I never use the same pose twice. We hand-build our moulds from scratch using clay, wood and wire. To do that, you have to really study the animal and its movement. The skin only fits one way, so if it is not correct, it shows. I have been watching nature documentaries all my life, and I have it in my head exactly how animal should behave. 
    Jaap: The way we display our animals is also part of the composition. We scour antiques shops and sales rooms for anything great that could fit with the 17th-century style of composition that we are searching for in our work. We are not just taxidermists, we are artists. Taxidermy is our chosen canvas.

What do your respective wives and children make of this change of direction?
    Ferry: They are cool with it. Although my six-year old daughter has banned me from stroking the cat!
    Jaap: Our wives always knew we wanted to do something where we were working together and creating something that we liked – rather than what the client wanted. Also, the workshop is a great place for children to visit – like a magician’s cave – so they enjoy that side of things.

How would you most want Darwin, Sinke and van Tongeren to be remembered?
    Ferry: For reinterpreting the Old Masters of the 17th century into three-dimensional masterpieces of the 21st century.
    Jaap: For creating pieces collected by museums and galleries around the world.




– Executive Director –



– Taxidermist & Antiques Collector –



– Taxidermist & Design Collector –