For St. Patrick’s Day, 7 Must-See Snakes Around the Smithsonian

Freer and Sackler Galleries

Here at the ATM blog, our St. Patrick's Day celebration this year is all about snakes and serpents. For it was these slithery reptiles that St Patrick was supposed to have driven into the sea, banishing all of that nation's snakes from the land. Turns out, though, there are lots of snakes at the Smithsonian Institution.

1. Get up close and personal with St. Patrick, or at least with a wooden figure of Ireland's best-known patron saint, in the collections of the American Art Museum. The statue of St. Patrick holding a snake was carved by artist Frank Brito sometime in the 1960s.

2. As difficult as it would be to chase snakes out, what kind of person would it take to charm them into behaving? Dennis Burlingame's 1935 painting entitled "Snake Charmer," also from the American Art Museum, appears to have the answer.

3. Over at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi illustrates another way to rid oneself of a menacing reptile in the woodblock print, "Eight Hundred Heroes of a Japanese Water Margin, All Told: Ogata Shuma Hiroyuki."

4. While not everyone is fond of snakes, most people can at least appreciate the use of their likeness in design, especially when it comes to adornments. The Cooper-Hewitt Museum showcases a bronze door knocker, while the American Indian Museum has a gold labret in the shape of a snake head.

5. We've all heard of snakes on a plane, so perhaps it makes sense that the snake bite serum, donated by pilot Charles Lindbergh, can be found at the Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center.

6. Who knew snakes played a role in the history of snail mail? See the Postal Museum's snake single stamp (back when they were 37 cents) and a Patriotic envelope cover from WWII.

7. There may not be any snakes in Ireland (outside of zoo animals and family pets) but we've got plenty here. If snakes are what you want to see, slide on over to the National Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center and see if they really are as menacing in person.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Additional reporting by Jesse Rhodes.

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