Image: Lady with a String Cheese
Photo by Soon Min Hwang
Article by Courtney Stoker
One of the oldest artistic depictions of a domesticated ferret is Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, painted circa 1480 CE. (While the painting’s title identifies the animal in her arms as an ermine, it appears to be a white ferret. Many portraits of nobles appear to misrepresent ferrets as “ermines” because of ermines’ association with royalty and nobility.) This painting is beloved by many ferret lovers, including Melodie Schulman of Seoul, South Korea. A couple years ago, she got to see the painting in person while on vacation in Poland. She connected with the subject because she loves thinking that “crazy ferret ladies existing 500 years ago who wanted to get portraits painted of them with their fur babies.”
“crazy ferret ladies existing 500 years ago who wanted to get portraits painted of them with their fur babies.”
Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci
Photo by Frank Zöllner
Melodie has three ferrets (String Cheese, Noodle, and Jjamppong, named after a spicy seafood soup), but String Cheese is a marked white ferret who looks the most like the ferret in Lady with an Ermine. After seeing the painting, every time Melodie picked him up, she thought of the ferret in the painting and became determined to recreate it.
Ferrets are relatively rare in South Korea, so Melodie had a bit of a hard time finding a photographer who was willing to let her “terrifying white beast” into their studio. Eventually, she found 포토크리닉 (Phothokhulinik, or Photo Clinic in English) in Nowon-gu; her photographer Soon Min Hwang had as much fun as she did during the shoot and hung a copy of the final portrait in the studio. Even String Cheese seemed to enjoy the shoot; Melodie says he seemed to want to be a model because “he sat relatively still during the whole process.”
Melodie doesn’t seem finished with silly ferret portraits. She says she would love to do more humorous recreations with her other ferrets. We are excited to see what she comes up with next!