Styracosaurus Maquette by Sideshow Dinosauria
Review by Scar, Photos by Jeremy Killian
There are aspects of this piece in creative interpretation which I absolutely adore, and others which I feel could have been improved upon.
Overall, I will credit SS for infusing this piece with personality. It’s not one individual aspect of the piece which serves this purpose, but the cumulative effort of the various facets, encompassing both sculpt and paint application in a marriage which results in a dinosaur that really comes alive upon close inspection.
Regarding the sculpt, the stance of the Styracosaurus was a superb choice. The backstory conveys this animal to be a bull Styracosaur who perhaps worked a bit too much on his mating display as opposed to his ability to fight rival bulls for dominance within the herd. This acts as a double-edged sword – the animal displays vibrant sexually dimorphic traits and puts the energy into engendering such traits, relaying to females of his species that he has favorable genes, capable of producing flamboyant characteristics and still surviving in a predator-rich environment. Despite being displaced by other male Styracosaurs for dominance, he retains the position of herd sentry, a crucial position upon which the entire herd hangs its metaphorical hat for protection. The overall sculpt accentuates his position within the herd; despite this individual organism not being an alpha male, the piece exudes an air of dominance and fearsomeness. This Styracosaur is the archetypal guardian of the herd. Imagine an approaching pack of marauding Troodons intent on sneaking among the herd to steal away with eggs and infants, though before they can attain their goal they happen upon this animal. The Styracosaur stands atop a mound of loosely packed earth, positioning his body sidelong to any encroaching foes, his head held erect; the result is an animal which is making itself appear as large and imposing as possible to any potential threats, while simultaneously surveying the surrounding area with as broad an efficiency as possible.
The body itself is studded with protuberances and dermal protrusions both along the flanks and running the length of the spine from the cervical vertebrae to the most posterior caudal vertebrae. The result is a body with a barbed exterior which parallels (although to a much less dramatic extent) the impressive skull with its lance-like horns. This herbivore is no bit less threatening than any of the carnivores we’ve seen in the line, and although smaller than the Triceratops it evinces just as much raw power, and arguably a much greater sense of regal dominance just by the nature of its posture. Admittedly it’s often the subtle nuances, the tiny minutia which artists opt to put into the statues, that I latch onto with fascination and admiration. Case in point – I love that Krentz sculpted the Styracosaurus with its nostrils flared. The thin membranous nares positioned directly behind the beak are wide possibly either in an attempt to take in as much sensory smells in the surrounding environment, or out of agitation regarding an impending threat. The beak as well is impeccably realistic. While designed for foraging, you know if it latched on in a quarrel, that beak could do some damage (speaking as a man who has bitten by numerous herbivorous birds as bears the scars to prove it). I really like the weathering on the beak and the way in which the gnatotheca fits into the rhinotheca. There is also an abundance of folds and creases in the flesh across the body which remind me of two of today’s large herbivores in particular – the elephant and the rhinoceros. Neither hesitate to defend themselves aggressively against perceived threats and that’s exactly the impression evinced by this Styracosaur.
Now that I’ve told you what I like about the sculpt, I will say I don’t like everything about it. The dorsal, lateral, and anterior regions sport a glut of detail, but that seems to slacken off when we reach the feet of the animal. I know Dan mentioned this concern previously on the T.rex VS Triceratops diorama, and although I don’t feel it’s an overwhelming or apparently obvious aesthetic on that diorama, here it’s definitely noticeable. Take a moment, look at the piece, and compare the level of detail across the animal’s head and body to the detail on the lower legs and feet. There’s no contest. It just seems as if it could have done with some pebbling or creasing to ensure that observers see those extremities as biological extensions of the organism, and not merely anchors to the base. Just a thought, but I feel a bit more time could have been taken there. Another nitpick of mine is on the horns of the Styracosaurus. If you have the flagship VS dio, look at the horns on the Triceratops. The keratin overlaying the horns is weathered and rough. The Styracosaurus horns appear too smooth, almost polished by comparison. From all of the apparent encounters this organism has had, according to its backstory, the horns do look awfully pristine. The keratin on the Triceratops and Carnotaurus horns look the way one would expect – with divots, outgrowth, and evidence of exposure to the elements. Where it’s the most apparent for me is on the orbital crests. Bear in mind by alluding to the Triceratops as a comparison this is NOT by any means a critique of David Krentz’s style as opposed to Adrian Taboada’s; as evidenced by the T.rex maquette, we see that Krentz is easily, EASILY capable of a degree of detail which is either on par with or vastly surpassing most if not all of his peers. The man can most definitely set the standard for lively, realistic dinosaur statues, as we saw in the T.rex maquette and in Krentz’s own independent work (his Einiosaurus “Buffalo Bull”, “Judith” the Gorgosaurus, and “Rex Mundi” the T.rex come to mind).
Just quickly, I would like to touch on the base. here we have an excellent continuation of the trend for what we’ve seen in Dinosauria bases thus far – an advanced level of natural realism. The earth beneath the Styracosaur’s feet seems literally to give way before our eyes, the animal sinking slightly into its defensive position, unconsciously “digging in” for a coming assault. An excellent selection to enhance the story and personality of the animal.
What’s my favorite aspect of the piece? The paint application. Wow. Simply amazing. Earlier I mentioned all of the protuberances across the central body mass – the dorsal surface of the body and anterior portions of the legs are speckled; this could easily serve as both cryptic coloration (camouflage) and aposematic (warning) coloration. Cryptic coloration is easy enough to deduce, such that this breaks up the body pattern and would prove extremely useful to conceal an animal which shares its territory with Tyrannosaurus rex. Aposematic coloration is a fine likelihood in the sense that the animal is covered with the aforementioned protrutions, as well as that menacing crest of horns. The color could well make the most vulnerable region of the animal (its exposed back) appear as it it is well-defended. Again regarding defense, that frill is astounding! It is quite vibrant, and could well be a sexually dimorphic display to signal virility, but equally plausible is the color pattern being elevated away from organs though still in an armored region to draw the attention of predators and make them uncertain of where they should attack to deal the most lethal blow. Predators are not ignorant of cephalization. Numerous studies have been done to show that predatory species search for the eyes on an organism to locate the head and then subsequently attack; so many sensory organs as well as the brain all located in one region. A sound attack executed well by a predator could quickly kill if not debilitate an herbivore. Utilizing a color for the spots on the frill which parallels the exact coloration of the animal’s eyes could confuse and disorient a predator. The attacking animal would think the most vulnerable region also to be situated right within a massive crown of spikes, and consequently be confounded as to the best route of attack. An excellent, excellent choice of color pattern. To say that a lot of thought has gone into this particular color scheme would seem a vast understatement.
Lastly I’ll just say concerning the exclusive skull that I would highly recommend pairing the skull with this piece for a number of reasons. I know there has been a lot of debate circling recently concerning whether or not to display the exclusive skulls separately from the statues or with the accompanying pieces. Firstly, the statues are not in scale with one another, and the exclusive skulls are to scale with the individual statues. The result is a Styracosaurus skull which quite literally dwarfs the other exclusive skulls. Displaying the skulls together and separate from the statues would skew perspective as to the comparative element between pieces. Some will point out that the T.rex skull exclusive to the maquette comes up short of the maquette’s skull in size. Remember, however, that the T.rex depicted in the maquette is a senior alpha male who has succeeded over his long years in staving off assaults from not only individual competitors, but from packs of competing Tyrannosaurs. At his age and status within his ecology, it’s apparent that he’s an extraordinary organism, and that the skull is likely based on an average adult organism from the species, and evidently not the animal in the statue. In his younger years as an adult it’s quite likely the T.rex had a skull very much the size of the exclusive skull. Comparing size between statues aside, it’s nice, particularly in the Styracosaurus piece, to see the keratinous outgrowths overlaying the bone, and to have the ability to hold the statue against the skull and see the similarities and disparities concurrently.
So there you have it. These are my thoughts on the Styracosaurus maquette – overall an outstanding artistic achievement in bringing our first solo herbivore into the line. Some features could have been improved upon, and others stand out as exquisite examples of the prescience and biological insight poured into the piece.