Monday, April 25, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Pot-Bellied Tyrannosaurus

Some of the classic pieces of early paleoart is Rudolf Zallinger's set of murals at Yale's Peabody Museum. I realize I've never done a full post on them here, though I have written a bit about it (and wrote about some of his son's work).

Well, that will have to wait. Today, I'm dealing with one important piece of his "Age of Reptiles" mural, the Pot-Bellied Tyrannosaurus.

Life in the Cretaceous
Image shared by Rolewiii at Flickr.

Standing at the center of the Cretaceous part of the mural, Ol' Pot Belly summarizes that lost world perfectly, as far as the 1940's were concerned. Cumbersome, imposing, red-eyed, he towers over all of the other animals in the scene. You have to wonder how many more there are in that bulging gut.

Prehistoric Times
Photo by Marxchivist, via Flickr.

It's understandable why the Marx company used the Pot-Bellied T. rex as the inspiration for their own tyrant king, included in their 1957 "Prehistoric Times" play set. With an anachronistic mix of prehistoric animals to serve as their friends and enemies, how many kids used the cavemen as proxies for themselves in their adventures?

Prehistoric Mayhem
Photo by Marxchivist, via Flickr.

I personally would have spent a lot of time making the yellow caveman in the lower left surf on the back of an ankylosaur.

Marx Tyrannosaurus Rex
Photo by djnick66, via Flickr.

Just as in the Cretaceous portion of "Age of Reptiles," Tyrannosaurus was the centerpiece of the Marx play set. It's not the most dynamic pose, but at least he wasn't in danger of falling over as the rest of his neighbors scurried and lumbered about in his shadow, nervously hoping he didn't get a hankering for their particular flavor of reptile meat.

I encourage you to check out The Dinosaur Toys Collector's Guide, which thoroughly covers both the Pot-Bellied T. rex and the Marx playset it is part of. And the Peabody Museum hosts a wealth of content about "The Age of Reptiles," including interviews and audio pieces about its creation and the world it depicts.


  1. Even though I know better, this is still how I think of a T-rex sometimes. I had a huge version of this mural in my room from (apparently) the time I was born until I graduated high school.

  2. I love the "Age of Reptiles" mural. Also love: the new blog banner. Fantastic!

    I have some dino art up at my blog,, if you guys are in a plesiosaur mood.

  3. Loving the new blog design! I also had the "Age of Reptiles" mural on my wall as a kid, love it. Always thought I'd paint an updated version of it...

  4. We didn't have this set in the UK - shame really, it would have kept me entertained for ages.

    +1 on the new blog banner. Superb. From the tiny bit of the plesiosaur I can see it seems to have seal-like flippers.

  5. I subscribe to about 20 paleontology blogs on google reader, and I have to say, your's is my favorite. I love the vintage art you post. But as fitting as the new format is, I am really fond of the old one. Mostly, I think I just love the red background.


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