Carl Akeley’s Powerful Sculpture Depicting the Humanity of Gorillas

Dculpted in 1924 by taxidermist and gorilla advocate Carl Akeley, “Chrysalis” represents his belief in the humanity of the apes.
Chrysalis sculpture by Carl Akeley

This sculpture was created by legendary taxidermist Carl Akeley in 1924. It depicts a man emerging from the skin of a gorilla, which naturally sparked controversy for its implications of evolution. Akeley defended his work, stating he intended to express how man is as bestial as the gorilla.

While collecting mountain gorilla for his work at the American Museum of Natural History, Akeley made observations that fundamentally changed his attitude toward the species. Opposed to hunting them for sport or trophies, he worked to establish a gorilla preserve, which eventually became Africa’s first national park.

“Chrysalis” represents Akeley’s belief in the humanity of the gorillas, rather than the idea that humans evolved from apes.

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