Cheap Imitations of Rheinhold's Philosophizing Monkey

Starting sometime during the first half of 2003, my attention was brought to what I would consider cheap imitations of Rheinhold's Philosophizing Monkey statuette. On this page, I have logged just a few of the imitations that were auctioned off on E-bay. For current auctions of imitations/reproductions of Rheinhold's monkey, search eBay using search terms such as monkey, ape, skull, Darwin, Rheinhold, and sculpture (or various combinations thereof). You are likely to find at least one "Darwinian monkey" auction at any given time. (On Nov. 30, 2005, I found three of such auctions.)

E-bay Nr. Artist acc. to seller Maker Material Final auction price
2175787333   Marwal Plaster? Asking Price of $49--no bid
2832128902   ESCO   $59.99
3609515982   Marwal Plaster? $32.95
2833685806   Austin Productions Inc. Clay (small sculpture)  
2997027061 Francisco Ramo ??? ??? ("bronzed finish") $24.95
4141418152   ??? "Cold Casting Bronze" GBP 19.00 (about $ 33.70)
6122464956 O. Tupton ??? Resin, with bronze-colored surface Did not sell for GBP 25.00.
6122623815 O. Tupton ??? Resin, with bronze-colored surface Did not sell for GBP 25.00.

Warning: The information provided by the sellers is often based on mere conjecture, far-fetched hear-say, or blatant misinformation (such as crediting the wrong artistsee also FAQ #2).

Blatant misinformation--Example 1: An eBay auction listed by "Sell it now auctions" on April 5, 2005 (# 5379813745) blatantly misrepresented its advertised Darwinian monkey statuette as being "Hugo Rheinhold's Philosophizing Monkey". While the advertised piece was an adaptation of Hugo Rheinhold's monkey, it was certainly not an "authentic antique treasure," as the seller claimed. (The seller also copied, without my permission and without giving proper credit to the source, the portrait of Hugo Rheinhold from this website. Responding to my complaint that the seller infringed on my copyright, eBay removed the auction on April 12, 2005.)

Blatant misinformation--Example 2: Seller "calkar21702" (eBay auction #7200195616 ending on Dec. 3, 2005) asserts the following: "Sculptures of Darwins Monkey b. 1926 were made of plaster, sculptures made after 1926 were made of bronze and /or bronze metal." In response to my inquiry regarding the source on which the above statement is based, the seller merely stated "upon doing some research i ran across that info that at turn of century statues were made of plaster and later were of bronze and or bronze metal." (Email, Nov. 29). The seller did not reveal the source itself.

Blatant misinformation--Example 3: Seller "finderskeepers1(a)hotmail" (eBay auction #6276304577 ending on May 6, 2006) treats an overprized imitation of Rheinhold's statuette as if the inscribed word Darwin was indeed a signature: The heading of the auction runs "Stunning Bronze Monkey Holding Skull Signed Darwin," and the major body of the ad includes the following statement: "... Vintage Bronze Monkey, ... Signed Darwin."

Blatant misinformation--Example 4: Even established online sellers of art reproductions may misinform you about their products--notwithstanding the expert staff they claim to have on board. A case in point is Talaria Enterprises Museum Store, which offers genuine reproductions, for some sculptures, and for other sculptures more functional versions "which convey the same historical authenticity but are adapted into useful, stylish, and functional home decor such as bookends, a table base, display-stand, lamp, pen, mouse pad or jewelry box." While there is nothing wrong with offering such adaptations (even though some will find them lacking in good taste), "historical authenticity" is clearly violated in the case of the seller's "Darwin's Mistake" sculpture. There is no evidence that Hugo Rheinhold, the creator of the original idea, was overly critical of Darwin, nor that his philosophizing monkey bronze, first publicly exhibited in 1893 at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition, was meant to convey such criticism. It is not only the title that lacks authenticity; far worse, the store also credits the wrong sculptor, concocting (or at least uncritically parroting) the following tale:

"Sculpted by Francisco Ramo in the 20th century, this sculpture both amuses and intrigues. ... This is a fine example of the Spanish artist, Ramo's, calculated irony who grew up during one of Spain's most turbulent periods."

Nina Christensen (M.A.), "art historian and college instructor", and "curator" for Talaria Enterprises Museum Store, which credible sources have you consulted to come up with this description? You certainly did not find it in reputable art reference sources, such as The Artists of the World (Saur1999/2000), Bénézit's Dictionnaire Critique et Documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs (1999), or Mackay's The Dictionary of Western Sculptors in Bronze (1977). It is unfortunate that the written correction that I had sent to the store (addressed specifically to you) on June 12, 2006, seem to have fallen on deaf ears (even though it was acknowledged by a staff member, Nick Pollard).

Examples of other online stores similarly guilty of spreading the "Ramo creation myth" include: (USA)


Design Toscano (USA)


Webb Designs - Resellers of Austin Sculpture in the UK - Darwin's Ape (UK)



Blatant misinformation--Example 5 (posted 1-28/29-2008):

A German eBay seller, rentnerkumpel, describes an inexpensive imitation of Hugo Rheinhold's ape statuette as an "extrem seltende Büste" [sic], or an "extremely rare bust" (eBay auction # 160202431382; ending on Feb-01-08). This particular version is currently mass produced and available through outlets such as Design Toscana. I have contacted the seller on 1-28-2008 and informed him about the incorrectness of his/her claim. He responded promptly, explaining that "mir sagte man das die Büste selten ist" [sic] (someone told him that the bust is rare). He chose not to have my comment show up on his auction; on Jan 29, the item continues to be advertised as "extremely rare," now making this statement a willful act of deception. 


Blatant misinformation--Example 6: (posted 11-24-2009):

On 11-20-2009, mrauto350 listed on eBay an auction entitled "EXTREMELY RARE ANTIQUE DARWIN THINKER STATUE ORIGINAL" (eBay auction # 120495962280; ending on Nov-27-09). The description includes the following statements: "THE STATUE IS NOT A REPRODUCTION THIS IS AN ORGINAL PLASTER OR CERAMIC STATUE OF A MONKEY 'THINKER' " and "THE STATUE HAS BEEN REMADE AND REPRODUCED IN BRONZE AND WOOD ETC. BUT THIS WAS THE ORGINAL ONE". Within a day after the posting, I contacted the seller, pointing out that the scupture is neither "extremely rare" nor original (a poor and cheap imitation of Hugo Rheinhold's "Philosophizing Ape"). As of 11-24-2009, the seller has not corrected his claims.  




Blatant misinformation--Example 7: (accessed 12-14-2011):

Regent Antiques in London offers a sculpture described as a "recast of the famous original work entitled 'Monkey with Skull' by Hugo Rheinhold, German 1853-1900. A model of a chimpanzee entitled Eritus Sicus Deus ( You made a mistake God). " Clearly, this is not a recast but a version different in numerous details from Hugo Rheinhold's sculpture. Regent Antiques also has problem with the Latin language. The correct inscription (on Rheinhold's sculpture) is "ERITIS SICUT DEUS," meaning "You shall be like God." There's not even a hint of a "mistake" in this quote from Genesis. If  the "attention to detail" is as "fantastic" as the seller claims, why couldn't the manufacturer get the Latin inscription at least approximately right." "ERITIOP CUT DE S"--I wouldn't call this "attention to detail."


Back to Rheinhold's Philosophizing Monkey homepage

This page was initially created 5/23/2003. Last updated 12/14/2011.

Axel Schmetzke, Ph.D.



University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

900 Reserve

Stevens Point, WI 54481