Stranger Fruit

Monday Mustelid (bonus)


On Monday, we’ll begin the final lap of the Monday Mustelid, namely the 18 members of the genus Mustela. So it seems apt to post what is probably the most famous image of a mustelid, Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Lady with the Ermine” (1482-’83). You can read more about the portrait here.

This is by way of pointing out that there are a number of the remaining species that I am unable to find a good picture of. So this will be the sole mention of M. africana Desmarest, 1818 which would have been our Monday Mustelid next week.


  1. #1 Marco Ferrari
    October 23, 2008

    Maybe I’m wrong, but in my opinion the animal portraited is not an ermine but a ferret, the domesticated and often albinotic form of european polecat (Mustela putorius furo). The ermine is much smaller than the animal Leonardo used, and the ferret is, and was, fairly widespread in Italy. Am I wrong?


    P. S. This is a domestic ferret:

  2. #2 Marco Ferrari
    October 23, 2008

    portraited=portrayed. Sorry

  3. #3 Mike Mason
    October 23, 2008

    Definitely not an ermine. They are very cute and small enough to fit in your hand, especially a hand with freakishly long fingers like the girl’s in the picture. Wikipedia also calls this critter a ferret. (see the bottom of the page)

    Wonder if Leonardo made a careless mistake or was making a joke contrasting the ermine, associated with nobility because of its fur, with the common ferret.

  4. #4 Paul Hutch
    October 24, 2008

    Be sure to check out today’s ZooBorn, a cute little Mustelid, Eno the Orphan Otter.

  5. #6 Stephanie
    November 21, 2008

    This is one of my all-time favorite Da Vinci paintings. The ermine/ferret is not even the weirdest thing about this work–look at that giant, claw-like hand!

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