Antique Crucifix catfish painted skull.
This is a fascinating antique mounted and painted specimen and a great example of folklore and beliefs.
This is the skull from an Arridae catfish, either Bagrus marinus or Aropsis felis. These are marine catfish species that inhabit the Western Atlantic ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
The partial skulls are sometimes washed ashore and are thought to be good luck to have. The arrangement of the bones on the ventral surface resemble a crucifixion. The religious symbology is further enhanced by the superficial resemblance of the dorsal surface to a Roman shield and even further, when these are shaken you can sometimes hear rattling which some say is the sound of the Roman soldiers gambling for Christ’s garments. In reality, this is the sound from loose otoliths rattling inside the bone.
This is an antique example which was painted to enhance the image although unlike the example in the Natural History Museum, this one looks distinctly goat like with a pair of red painted horns and red eyes. Rather macabre and diabolical. The bone itself measures 11cm x 5.5cm wide and has been mounted on a plinth within a glass dome. The dome measures 17cm high by 14cm wide.