A rt O f T he C arousel
Daniel C. Muller
C lown P anel
c. 1910 Wood carving and painting 45 x 25 inches “Rollicking music pumped into the air by a carousel organ tempted everyone within earshot to join the circular parade. Glass jewels and sparkling mirrors scattered inviting beams of light into the eyes of the passing throng. The whirling machines drew spectators closer and closer with an open invitation to excitement. Once astride the galloping horses, riders clutched richly carved manes covered with a slick coat of paint and felt the carousel wind blow across their cheeks. With their senses tingling and their imaginations running wild, people returned again and again to climb aboard the carousel. Five cents bought a ticket to fantasyland.” (Peggy Shank’s opening text from “Painted Ponies” by
William Manns and Marianne Stevens published in 1986.) Fantastic hybrid monsters, angels, allegories of old man winter, griffins, sea monsters, eagles, clowns, flags, flowers and jewels are among the motifs used in the decorative schemes of carousels, along with the horses and the menagerie animals. The brilliant artist Daniel Carl Muller carved and painted this panel while he was operating his own factory from 1903-1914. Muller was formally trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the realistic carving of the face of what is perhaps old man winter showcases the artist’s talent. The painted clown has a subtly pleasing color palette and very expressive eyes.
Philadelphia Toboggan Company
S ea M onster C rank P anel Early 20th century Wood with paint 23 inches Tall, 37 inches Wide
Philadelphia Toboggan Company (1903-1925) artists carved this frightening fantastic â€œSea Monster.â€? It was brightly and beautifully painted with a palette containing red, yellow, green, burgundy, teal and gold. The monster itself is terrific and its face reminds me of the Hollywood creature from the black lagoon that comes much later in the century. The carving is deep and realistic when representing the organic parts of the creature and decorative and ornate when making
scrolls and fancy moldings. PTC (Philadelphia Toboggan Company) featured wonderful secondary figures on their carousels in addition to the major animals that were for the riders. Details of the carousel such as this sea monster on the crank panel , the painted clown and sculptured old manâ€™s face on the vertical panels, and cherubs or monsters on the chariot sides, combine to make the whirling three minute ride into an exciting journey through fantasyland.
Gustav And William Dentzel
C hariot S ide I n T he F orm O f A F lying M onster Probably early 20th century Wood 36 inches Tall x 18 inches Wide x 3 inches Deep Gustav Dentzel came from Germany to Philadelphia and in 1867 put the nameplate over his shop that read “G.A. Dentzel, Steam and Horsepower Caroussell Builder.” When Gustav died in 1909, his son William ran the company until his own death in 1928. The chariot was a stationery bench on the carousel and the sides were carved and decorated. This carving, probably by William Dentzel, on both sides of this chariot side seems to represent some kind of a feathered flying monster. The photograph shows the in-
side of this chariot panel and the viewer can see where the seat of the bench was inserted into the wood. The “Flying Monster” has feathers on its head, face and breast. It also has some kind of scales or a stylized mane running down its long neck. The color of the wood, the fantasy nature of the creature, the wonderful carving of the facial details, and the beautiful decorative detailing of the scrolls, sash and stylized leaves make this a very enjoyable piece.
M iniature C arousel 1999 Mixed media 9 inches High Carousel, 12 inches Diameter Carousel Ken Buser from Biglerville, Pennsylvania made this incredible working carousel. He did all of the electrical and mechanical work and he carved and painted each of the 32 animals which are only 1 ½” long and based on an actual carousel animals made by famous carvers. For example, the zebra on the outside row is based on a Dentzel figure and the Saint Bernard Dog two figures behind on the outside row is an exact replica of a PTC figure known as “Bruno.” This carousel has a diameter of only 12”. It has 12 sides and a canvas top. The floor is cherry wood. The outside top of the carousel has glass mirrors. The inside is illuminated by 120 electric lights. The inside top in the center has 12 painted scenes from around Biglerville . Tony Messano is the painter and he also did
the 6 paintings on the outside base such as “The Gateway To Clementon Park” and “The Ferris Wheel.” The palette has subdued colors so the paintings would not detract from the carousel. There are 2 chariots and 17 carved horses including C.W. Parker ’s famous Bucking Bronco that is located in the middle row. There are 15 menagerie (any animal other than a horse) animals including a giraffe, a lion, a camel and a rooster. Ken Buser is meticulous in his carving, detailing, electric work and mechanical creations. This “Miniature Carousel” is absolutely one of the most fantastic pieces in my collection. The horses go up and down as the carousel moves forward at various speeds. There is even a disc player hidden in the base that can play the organ music.
C arousel H orse W ith R ed C hest S trap c. 1898 Wood and paint 34 inches High, 58 inches Long “Those magical childhood moments spent whirling through a myriad of lights while perched atop a fiery steed remain as precious memories throughout life….with the renewed interest in carousels many people…are for the first time seeing the artistry that went into making these fine crafted carvings from our past.” (Tobin Fraley wrote this in his book “The Carousel Animal.”) The German carver Josef Hubner made these amazing powerful and realistic horses in the time period circa 1900. The carving of the horse with its dynamic movement, swelling body contours, underlying skeletal structure and detailed musculature animates the animal and imbues it with a sense of life. The ears tilting for-
ward and the glass eyes give the horses a sense of alertness and reality. This type of carousel horse with four outstretched legs off the ground is called a galloper or a jumper. These horses were placed in the middle and inside rows of a carousel and they moved up and down on a pole. There is a thin line between Fine Art and Folk Art when discussing sculpted horses of this high quality. Many pieces of carousel art have been created by trained artists rather than by artisans and craftsmen. Carousel art pieces are enjoyable to look at and fun to fantasize about. They elicit nostalgic reminiscences of childhood and time gone by and they represent hope for the future with dreams of retained youth, if not eternal youth.
C arousel H orse W ith G reen C hest S trap c. 1898 Wood with paint 40 inches High, 62 inches Long This is the larger of the two majestic horses. I acquired both of them together from an antique shop in Nice, France and it is most likely that these horses rode on the same carousel. Horses that were made by Josef Hubner have some distinct characteristics. They have long tapering noses and undershot jaws. An undershot jaw has the lower jaw or teeth projecting beyond the upper jaw. Hubner horses have lots of strap work for decoration. The horses are also are distinguished by their â€œWâ€? shaped saddle blankets. The horses are brightly colored with red, green, blue, yellow, orange, black and dark red highlighted against the white of the
body. The ornamentation on a carousel animal is called the caparison. Vladimir Andreyev took these photographs and they are works of art in themselves with dynamic movement and interesting compositions. I really enjoy these carousel horses for various reasons, but their worn weathered patina is a key element for me. The textures of the wood and the paint are prominent elements in the esthetics of these sculptures. I enjoy that the horses show the effects of time on their surfaces.
G reen C arousel H orse c. 1850 Wood with paint 34 inches High, 48 inches Long This green horse comes from Central America and I acquired it with the red and blue horses. I assume that they have been together since they were created and that they rode on the same carousels. This green horse has the most realistically depicted musculature and the most life-like qualities of the three horses. It has the greatest feeling of movement and dynamism that is created by the outstretched front legs and the turning animated quality of the head.
Its mane is free flowing and the artist was most likely given freedom to show off his carving skill in the treatment of the mane. The patina of these horses is wonderful with layers of colors overlapped and bleeding through the predominant top layer, in this case the green. Parts of this â€œGreen Carousel Horseâ€? resemble a mosaic or an abstract painting where small areas of color abut and intermingle with each other.
R ed C arousel H orse c. 1850 Wood with paint 36 inches High, 48 inches Long I used to think that the carving of the â€œRed Carousel Horseâ€? was inferior to the other horses, but I eventually realized that this horse is meant to represent a very young foal with its awkward anatomical detail and the stiffness of the position of the back of its body.
The colors coalesce in a resplendent saddle and saddle cloth area with various reds, pinks and blues. The surface of this horse has a weathered and worn quality, bright colors, and textures that are visually and tactilely interesting.
B lue C arousel H orse c. 1850 Wood with paint 38 inches High, 51 inches Long This â€œBlue Horseâ€? is the largest of the group. It has a wonderful patina of overlapping and peeling paint layers with the resulting color combinations and textures. It is perhaps the most beautiful coloristically of these three antique horses. These horses were made of Honduran mahogany wood. They were made a long time ago and they actually rode on operating carousels in their lifetime. There is a charming Folk Art quality to these multi-colored horses. The awkwardness of some of the move-
ment and poses and the lack of modeling of some portions of the figures such as the rump of the red horse argue for a Folk Art classification. All of the carousel horses that I have in my collection are in good shape and are able to bear the weight of children and adults. The horses are a great prop for photographs and many of my guests avail themselves of this pleasure. Children climb upon and play on these magnificent creatures linking the past with the present.
Allan Herschell Company
A luminum K iddie H orse c. 1932 Cast aluminum 15 inches High, 33 inches Long, 9 inches Wide This heavy cast aluminum horse was made for little children. The great carousel carvers in America had stopped making horses out of wood by 1930 because of the Depression. The Allan Herschell Company manufactured only aluminum horses from 1931 onward. Most of the paint has come off of this horse, but the resulting patina of the turquoise, peach, black and red colored areas against
a metallic dull silver ground is stunning. The little horse has the qualities of strength, stability, realistic anatomical detail and a sense of movement created by the tail flowing out behind and the running legs. Children would sit on this horse holding on to metal circular handle. The horses would be stationary standing on a circular platform that would turn in carousel fashion to provide the ride.
Made by Illions-Mangels, Painted by Igor Tiul’panoff (c. 2006)
Date unknown Cast aluminum 27 inches High, 28 inches Long This is another cast aluminum horse done for small children. I acquired this when it was primed with white and ready to be painted. I prefer the weathered patina rather than glossy restoration on these carousel animals, so rather than have it restored to its original design and colors, I commissioned Igor Tiul’panoff to decorate it c. 2006. Tiul’panoff did a remarkable job using a different decorative scheme for each half of the horse. The photograph shows the two halves of the same painted aluminum kiddie animal. One side was painted with geometric squares and bands and flat color areas. The other side was done in a more painterly style with many colors mixed within the fields. This side is reminiscent of the beautiful patinas that are found on the Red, Green and Blue Carousel Horses
in my collection. The bright color harmonies on both sides are gorgeous and enjoyable. It is interesting to note that even in these aluminum kiddie horses, the treatment of the mane is similar to that in the larger wooden carvings. In this Illions-Mangels creation the mane is represented falling onto one side of the neck. Igor Tiul’panoff chose to paint the mane in shades of blue. William Mangels was a specialist in the engineering and fabrication aspects of building carousels. Marcus Illions was a master carver. These men collaborated in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York from 1900-1909, but their strong personalities clashed and their partnership was short-lived.
R ocking H orse 1990s Wood with oil paint 41 inches High, 49 inches Long, 22 inches Wide I acquired this beautiful Rocking Horse at an auction in Pennsylvania and I will never forget the experience of driving it home while it was tied down on the back of my Carrera Cabriolet with the convertible top down. The creator Robert Braun was a renown faux and trompe l’oeil interior painter in New York City. He uses various woods including birch, plywood and maple, oil paint and gold leaf to create this masterpiece. This is Braun’s trompe l’oeil interpretation of a traditional carousel animal in the form of a working “Rocking Horse.” The dappled gray carousel horse is rendered with tremendous
detail such as the veins in its face, the flaring nostrils, the flowing mane, the musculature of the legs and the alert brown eyes. The trappings of the carousel horse are sumptuously rendered with gold leaf and deep rich beautiful colors. The rocking apparatus is ornately decorated and richly colored with a burgundy and teal color scheme. The rocking horse is in working condition and both children and adults always play upon it. This is a spectacular work of art with its exquisite colors and its phenomenal trompe l’oeil duplication of a carousel horse.
C arousel G oat F igurine 1999 Carved wood with paint 15 inches High, 11 inches Long This amazing “Carousel Goat Figurine” is signed on the bottom of the base, “Hand carved by Israel Benavides Prisoner # 632708 Ellis Unit Huntsville, Texas.”
The wood sculpture is beautifully carved and expertly painted to reproduce the anatomic al details and texture of the goat as well as the brightly colored trappings of the carousel figure.
C arousel T iger F igurine 1999 Carved wood with paint 10 inches High, 12 inches Long This “Carousel Tiger Figurine” is part of a group called “Chiapas Carvings” that also includes the Goat Figurine. These figures are extraordinarily well rendered and beautifully colored and painted. They reproduce the feeling of the larger carousel animals that were done by the major carvers in
the Golden Age of the Carousel in the first two decades of the 20th century. The tiger is depicted ferocious and roaring with his tail curved down between his back legs. The purple of the saddle blanket harmonizes beautifully with the colors of the tiger’s body.
H orse D reams 1999 Colored pencil and ink on giclee print on wood panel 20 x 13 inches Janine Stern chose the theme of the carousel because she made this drawing for me. It is a rather dark moody piece with brightly illuminated sections of lovely color. The artist depicts some objects in sharper focus such as the wood railing in the foreground and three metal poles, but most of the elements in the picture are shown in a fuzzy focus. The electric lights of the carousel, the two barely discernible carousel horses on the right, and the architectural elements of the windows all have a hazy quality that gives this scene a dream-like atmosphere. This is not a brightly colored moving carousel replete with laughing children, but rather it depicts a stationary empty carousel devoid of human presence and mostly hidden in darkness. This contrasts to the bright sunlight and the blue sky outside suggesting
that the carousel is closed, forgotten or in disuse. The fence in the foreground physically and symbolically denies the viewer access. The most highlighted and perhaps eeriest image is the white horse whose front half is revealed by dramatic bright light. His eye seems to have life as it gazes out at the viewer. The light catching the stepping left leg adds further animation to the image. Could â€œHorse Dreamsâ€? be referring to his thoughts, dreams and perceptions? The artist uses her drawing technique to beautifully interweave the red, green and yellow colors into the out of focus electric lights above. I especially enjoy the patch of color that is revealed by the light that hits upon the trappings of the horse in the middle ground on the right.
S aint B ernard D og F igurine (A fter P hiladelphia T oboggan C ompany ) 2000 Carved and painted Linden wood 5 inches High, 7 inches Long Ken Buser carved this figure of â€œBrunoâ€? the Saint Bernard, depicting the barrel of beer around his neck for his rescue mission, after a design of The Philadelphia Toboggan Company from 1902.
Ken Buser is carefully accurate in the details of his carving and in his painting in order to reproduce the original form of the figure.
C ow F igurine (A fter B ayol ) 2000 Carved and painted wood 6 inches High, 9 inches Long Ken Buser carved this cow after a design by the French carousel carver Bayol dating from c. 1900. The artist selected this figure be-
cause I like the Bayol cows. This cow has the characteristics of grace and power, as well as beauty with its simple but elegant color palette.
H orse F igurine (A fter S tein A nd G oldstein ) 1993 Carved and painted wood 9 inches Long Ken Buser carved this beautiful black jumper after a design by Stein and Goldstein from 1909. The color palette is bright as the primary colors play off against the black and white horse. The red
and yellow feathers highlighted against the horseâ€™s black neck are noteworthy.
Z ebra F igurine (A fter D entzel ) 1999 Carved and painted wood 7 inches High, 8 inches Long This zebra is based on a Dentzel design from c. 1900. The black and white stripes form an interesting pattern and red, green, gold and brown is played off against it. A carousel figure other than a
horse is called a menagerie figure. This zebra was an outside row standing figure. A standing figure has at least three feet on the ground.
M iniature C arousel 2000 Mixed media Carousel is 16 inches High, 18 inches Diameter Structure is 24 inches High, 23 inches Wide, 27 inches Deep Another fabulous “Miniature Carousel” designed and carved by the incredible Ken Buser between April and October in 2000. The mixed media includes wood, metal, wire, fabric, canvas, mirrored glass, paint and collage. This carousel has an 18” diameter. It has 10 segments in its circle, electric lights, forward and backward movement, middle and inside row animals that go up and down, and it is equipped with a CD player to provide authentic carousel music. The carousel has 80 mirrors on the exterior, large mirrors on the interior, as well as 10 painted panels by Tony Massemo. The carvings include three rows of animals including 16 horses, 2 cows, 2 rabbits, 2 pigs, and one each of a giraffe, goat, zebra and hippocampus. There is also a chariot, a lover ’s tub that spins and a lion that holds a brass ring in its mouth. Each animal is a miniature accurate reproduction of an actual carousel carving. For example, the outside row giraffe is a Dentzel design from c.1910, the white horse with the green saddle in the middle row is a Stein and Goldstein design, and the outside row standing white horse with the wild mane and the pink and purple trim is an Illions creation. Each
animal is made from Bass wood and is about 3” long. I commissioned the artist to make this carousel. I have memories of going to Coney Island with my father on weekends, sitting atop a magnificent steed and attempting to lean over and catch the brass ring as we flew by. I enjoy the images and animals from the carousel. Charlotte Dinger dedicates her book “Art Of The Carousel,” “To the young at heart who find the carousel a never-ending joy.” She later says; “Overlooked for nearly a century, the quality and originality of carousel art had been lost in the kaleidoscope of the whirling ride. Created by gifted hands, loving hearts, and forgotten names of a bygone era, the carousel is now a respected American art form. Come, take a whirl with me…but, this time, observe, appreciate, and treasure the unique magic and artistic splendor of this wondrous ride.” I have always equated the fascinating whirling ride on the carousel with the fantastic, colorful, up-and-down emotional, brightly illuminated and mirrored, exciting journey through life.
D e co r at i v e A rt A n d F o l k A rt
T wo -S helved B ox F illed W ith O bjects 1920s or 1930s Wood and mixed media 23 inches High, 13 inches Wide, 5 inches Deep This amazing two - shelved carved wooden box contains dozens of beautifully crafted objects including musical instruments made of exquisite woods and inlaid with mother of pearl, ceramic plates that show actual patterns, baskets, lanterns, books, intricate chandeliers, vases, vessels, pots, and a couple of one inch square pencil drawings that depict horses. The mixed materials used in this piece include woods, metals, ceramics, glass, paper, stone, fabric and plastic. This work of art is wonderfully rich in its imagery and has many exquisite objects in it that enchant the viewer. The miniaturization of the objects is fascinating in itself. This carved wooden box is a display case for the many hand-made small works of art within it. I used to think that this was a salesmanâ€™s sample case and it was traveled with to show objects and
sell products, but there are difficulties with this theory, not the least being the fragility of the piece. I was in the great Flea Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico with my father when I spotted this piece, but I passed it by because I thought that it would be very expensive because of all the fine items inside. My father convinced me to ask about the work, and I was pleasantly surprised that I could buy the entire piece for what I would have paid for one of the inlaid miniature musical instruments. Five minutes after I purchased the work, people from the Santa Fe Folk Art Museum came to the booth and wanted to buy this box. This constantly entertaining work of art is absolutely one of my favorites in my collection because of its uniqueness, its variety, and its beauty.
W ood S tanding F igure Date unknown (19th century?) Wood 10 inches Tall This antique wooden standing male figure is missing parts of some limbs and is weathered and dried. The lightweight wood is crackled and discolored and the animal skin shirt is thin and papertextured, but these elements add to the beauty of the patina. The bearded ageing face is naturalistically rendered and the body of the figure is well proportioned, but there is an abstraction of
form occurring as is evident by the almost rectangular block of wood that is used for the clothing of the middle section of this male figure. I think that this sculpture represents a peasant figure rather than a santos type of carving although there is a hood around the manâ€™s head. I found this wonderful man in an antique shop in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
French Artist Unknown
W ooden H orse
1880s-1890s Wood 36 inches High, 41 inches Long The very dark rich patina that is found on this heavy wooden “Horse” perhaps results from its function as a model in a paper mache factory towards the end of the 19th century in France. Paper mache was applied wet to sections of the horse and then allowed to mold to the contours and dry. It was then removed and reconstructed into a paper mache horse. There are realistic details on the face and the musculature of the legs, neck and most of the body is delineated nicely. The overall
size of this horse is smaller than the carousel horses and the overall design scheme is more decorative than naturalistic. The tail is an Art Nouveau abstracted decorative piece of wood and the mane becomes a geometric symmetrical pattern along both sides of the horse’s neck. The saddle is sleek but simple and the details of the trappings are modeled in low relief and without concern for color. This “Horse” is very heavy and perhaps is made out of chestnut wood.
A merican F olk A rt Coal Miner And Donkey Perhaps c. 1930s Molded and raw coal and wood on a wooden base 9 inches Tall, 22 inches Long, 6 inches Wide I was only able to select a few of the pieces of American Folk Art that are in my collection because of the space restraints involved in preparing a book. This “Coal Miner And Donkey” is one of my favorites because of its uniqueness, its charming quality, its harmony of black colors and tonalities, its working class realism, and the high artistic quality of the carving. The base, tracks, wagon and wagon wheels are carved from wood. The miner and the donkey are made out of coal. Perhaps coal dust was compressed and molded into these forms and hardened and polished to the shiny black color. I enjoy the way the polished
surfaces play off against the rougher textures and the grayer colors of the other objects. Actual chunks of coal are used as the raw material in the wagon and strewn on the tracks. The artist is unfortunately unknown, but it is very possible that this piece comes from the coal mining region of West Virginia. I enjoy the way that the artist represents the details of the donkey’s anatomy and posture. The artist closely observes and depicts the man carrying coal to the wagon and the realistic details of his clothing and helmet.
A merican F olk A rt Peacock c. 1925 Wood, shell, root, buoy and paint 11 inches Tall, 15 inches Long This enchanting, beautiful and ingenious “Peacock” comes from the New Hampshire area. The head and neck are represented using a natural root, the wings are white shells, the body is a buoy that usually floats in waters, and the exquisite tail is made from a natural piece of wood that was painted. The colors of the tail are now lovely soft pastel shades of red, yellow and turquoise and this palette enhances the stateliness, lyricism and serenity of the sculpture. The weathered qualities of each of the surfaces over the past 90 years or so have added distinctive characteristics to the “Peacock” and are important esthetic elements and evocative emotionally when the work is viewed. For example, the spotted flakes of
white paint on the body contrasts with the darker raw wood of the buoy, creating a wonderful pattern that in turn resonates against the white areas of the breast and wings. The aged weathered qualities evoke memories of times gone by when living was perhaps easier and closer to nature. Times when an artist could walk on the beach near the ocean and find these shapes and forms and use his ingenuity to construct this type of Folk Art sculpture. (It can happen today, but a more likely scenario might be a person looking on the Internet for ideas to make a creative animal sculpture.) The “Peacock” evokes nostalgic thoughts and feelings when I ruminate upon it.
American Folk Art
c. 1930s-1940s Wood, some metal and paint Church 10 inches Tall x 7 inches Long Houses are about 5 inches Tall x 5 inches Wide This Folk Art Village was found in Pennsylvania and was most likely originally made there. The date is unknown, but it was before the 1950s. The advent of television c. 1950 severely curtailed the production of Folk Art in America because people spent their spare time watching TV rather than making art projects. This “Village” is unsophisticated in the quality of its carving and the architectural designs of its structures, but it is charming in its simplicity and its color combinations. For example, the red house with the blue roof has the endear-
ing details of two blue and white striped awnings, two small stepped porches and a small gable on the roof above the front door. There is a red outhouse next to the tree between the church with the tall green steeple and the blue house with the yellow roof. The various structures can be moved around and set up in different configurations. It is very possible that this was carved as a set of toys for children. I enjoy setting this “Village” up on a shelf or platform and mixing animals and small people into the arrangement.
T oy T rolley Late 19th century Painted tin with iron and wood 7 inches Tall, 15 inches Long, 6 inches Wide I am not very knowledgeable about antique toys, but I purchased this trolley at an antique shop in New Orleans because I fell in love with the predominantly red and black color scheme, the design and shape of the work, and the wonderful patina of the surface. I enjoy the imperfections including the scratches, dents, bent portions, and chipped paint. I enjoy the delightful little flat riders who can be seen through the open windows. This â€œTrolleyâ€? not only reminds the viewer of the past, but also conjures up visions of present day New Orleans in which trolley cars still operate on several of the major streets such as St. Charles
Avenue. I lived in New Orleans for several years while I was teaching the History of Art at Tulane University and I still have fond memories and close ties to that wonderful city. This toy has a mechanism that makes it continue to go forward on its own volition after it is rubbed or scooted along the ground. It is fun to see the way toys worked at the end of the 1800s. It is a pleasure to handle and explore and enjoy this visual treasure that is over 100 years old. My son has always enjoyed taking it down from the shelf and playing with it and I wonder if he too appreciates the beauty of the colors and the patina.
K rakow C athedral 1990s Assemblage, mixed media with cardboard structure 12 inches Tall, 7 inches Wide This assemblage depicting “Krakow Cathedral” from Poland was acquired from a shop in Santa Fe that specialized in Polish art objects. Jelinski is a family of Polish Folk artists, but the creator of this resplendent image is the elder Jelinski. The older folk artists paid tremendous attention to painstaking details in their artistry. This ornate building has every inch of its surface covered with color and texture. Tin foil, paper, metallic braid, bric-a-brac, metals, fabrics, sequins and cardboard are among the materials used to make this elaborately decorated building. Sometimes the entire family would help in the construction of a work of art such as this. Children might roll up the colored tin foil into balls or other shapes
or they might cover a piece of cardboard with foil or colored paper. There is a great deal of work that went into the production of this “Krakow Cathedral.” Abstracted figures are placed in the arches at the main entrance to the building. There are endless varieties of decorative forms, shapes and details in this fantastic creation. The artist has also created an exquisite interplay of many lovely colors including gold, red, turquoise, silver and pink. This is a wonderful piece of Folk Art from Poland that is a feast for the eyes both coloristically and architecturally, as well as for its wealth of details.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
M ermaid D oll
2002 Mixed media including fabric and paper mache 39 inches Tall, 10 inches Wide There is a huge degree of variation in the sophistication of design and the quality of execution between various pieces of Folk Art. In the discussion of the remarkable white carousel horses by Hubner, I briefly mentioned the narrow line between Fine Art and Folk Art and its questionable validity. This “Mermaid Doll” with
her paper mache face, gorgeously colored wig, sumptuous fabrics, fine quality of technical craftsmanship, and sophistication of conception and design is a fun, enchanting, fantastic work of art. Igor and Elena Tiul’panoff even contributed slightly to the decorative scheme of these incredible dolls.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
R abbit D oll
c. 2001 Mixed media including fabric and paper mache 38 inches Tall, 15 inches Ear to ear There is a remarkable sophistication in the wondrous color palettes of these dolls. The mermaid’s palette is bright, exciting, wild with the orange and yellow clashing and harmonizing with the turquoise, fun and imaginative with the pink ruffled heart, and aquat-
ic with the predominance of blues and greens. The “Rabbit Doll” is elegant with his exquisite color harmonies of burgundy, gold and black. This rabbit has a regal masculine quality in comparison to the gentler feminine feeling that emanates from the mermaid.
American Navajo Indian Deerskin Doll Clothes Early 20th century? Deerskin with beadwork 10 x 6 inches There is a rich warm beige color to this deerskin jacket and dress that is soft and beautiful especially when it harmonizes with the red, white and black beadwork of the sleeves of the jacket. The suede fabric is very tactile and the design of the clothing is noteworthy. There is matching fringe cut along the bottom of the dress and on the bottom of the large pocket that matches the trapezoidal shape of the lower portion of the dress. The blue, gold, green and black
beadwork on this pocket depicts a teepee. The sleeveless dress has a U-shaped neck and a rather simple design that flares out as it goes towards the fringed bottom. The jacket is more elaborate with its design of V-shapes cut around its lower section in both the back and the front. The jacket also has matching fringe on the collar and the edges of the sleeves. The shoulders of the jacket are heavier and broader to balance the wider dimensions of the lower hem of the dress.
Tlingit American Indian
M odel T otem P ole
c. 1900 Wood with paint 19 inches Tall, 3 inches Deep Tlingit is a member of any number of American Indian peoples from the coastal regions of southern Alaska and northern British Columbia. The social organization of these coastal Indians centered around membership in a household comprised of an extended matrilineal lineage. The house refers to a large cedar structure in which the entire lineage resides. This small model totem pole was probably done as a sculptural element for the lineage house. Totem poles are usually carved from a single cedar log and they display a vertical sequence of sculptural images that relate to a mythic narrative. I am not familiar with the iconography of American Indian
Art and I am uncertain whether the top and bottom figures on this totem pole are humans or bears. The top figure is wearing a clan hat, as is the small figure that he is holding. These clan hats were prized possessions of the lineage and were worn only by senior males. The lineage chief would wear the clan hat at a ceremonial feast called a potlatch. The middle figure is a bird, perhaps a raven which was a popular image in this culture. The color scheme of red, blue and black, the patina of the wood, and the wonderful abstraction of the forms make this a special and enjoyable sculpture.
M odel T otem P ole c. 1920s Wood with paint 11 inches Tall, 2 inches Deep This model totem pole also comes from the Alaskan and British Columbian region. It depicts a frog, a wolf and perhaps a bear or
spirit figure on the bottom. The beautiful faded shades of blue, green and burgundy red mingle with the black and the wood tones.
L eather P illow C over 20th century Leather and dyes 36 inches Long, 16 inches Wide This interesting leather pillow cover from Africa was used by the nomads. Each night it would be stuffed with straw and used for sleeping and relaxing. Each of the two sides has a different decorative scheme as can be seen in the photograph. The side that contains the slit for stuffing the pillow has a geometric pattern consisting of red and gold rectangles and squares. There are four narrow bands that are painted with red and green straight and curved lines and triangles on the gold ground and there are black geometric abstract drawings in these 2â€? wide bands. The design on this side is roughly symmetrical. The red and gold tones are rich and beautiful.
The predominant color on the front side is the lighter variegated gold that is used for the background. Tight geometric decorative design work covers the surface of this side. Red and black are used to create the many patterns and configurations. This side is a visual smorgasbord of designs and decorative areas. There is also symmetry in the design on this side. The texture of the leather is soft and supple. The patina is tremendously variegated and pleasing and the water stains on both sides, the raised thread from the sewing, and the long black fringe on both ends enhance the beauty and character of this work.
African Folk Art
H orseman W ith S pear Date unknown Rusted iron 9 inches Tall, 11 inches Long This African Folk Art sculpture is another of my favorite pieces. It is a gem of a piece of art characterized by its simplicity of form, its sense of abstraction, its fascinating patina and rusted discoloration, and the way that the slender forms interact with the space around them. The composition of “Horseman With Spear” has a balance between its horizontal and vertical elements, as well as between its straight and curving forms and shapes. The elegant balance is achieved with playful curving lines such as the rider ’s legs, stron-
ger curves such as the horse’s neck and tail, straight horizontal lines such as the thin spear and the thicker body of the horse, and vertical straight lines such as the horse’s legs and the rider ’s body. This antique African sculpture has a very modern feeling about it. It is very refined in its abstraction and it is almost being dwarfed by the space around it. Space seems to be compressing the figures. The negative space between the metallic parts of the sculpture speaks as eloquently in terms of shape and form as the actual thin abstract iron forms that compose the “Horseman With Spear.”
12th-13th century Iron 9 inches Long This antique French key is from medieval times. The viewer can fantasize about the strongbox or the castle bedchamber that this large key has opened. One can imagine the scene of this key being forged in a blacksmithâ€™s shop in 1150 or 1250 BC. The patina of this heavy iron key is dark, relatively smooth, monochromatic and not rusted. Light creates an interesting pattern when the slightly textured, hand forged metallic surface is illuminated.
The teeth portion of the key has a nicely decorative symmetrical design. The handle in contrast is a perfectly round circle shape. Great care was taken to even the thickness of the teeth section, while the barrel and handle of the key varies in the modulation of its thickness. This â€œKeyâ€? is a rather simple, unadorned, solid powerful form that is a pleasure to look at and touch. It connotes a completely different place and time.
F etishes Second half of 19th century Metal 3-5 inches Tall, 2 inches Wide I acquired these seven metal pieces around 1990 and I owned them for more than ten years before I was able to find out what they where. They have interesting and variegated patinas to their thin metal forms. Their colorations differ and they have tactile properties. Each piece represents a different image; namely, a female figure, a male figure, a nude female torso, a teardrop shaped piece, a leg, an arm and a hand, and a soldier. For a while I thought that they were cookie molds of some kind, but who would want a cookie with a leg design or and arm and a hand? Then I figured that they were printing devices for newspapers or advertising sheets, but they are very
thin and how would they print? Finally, I found a newer piece that depicted a nude female torso in a frontal view from the neck to the hips and I solved the mystery of the seven metal objects. They are fetish objects from England and they date from the late 19th-early 20th centuries. The nude female torso for example would be left in a church after prayer to insure a successful pregnancy and birth. If a person were going to have an operation on their leg, the leg fetish would be left in the church to procure success. The soldier fetish was used to protect a soldier going to battle, etc. The interesting patinas result partly from the fact that there probably is silver in these metallic fetishes.
F ireplace P laque c. 1701 Cast iron 17 inches Tall, 15 inches Wide This rusted cast iron French plaque would be used in the back of a fireplace to reflect the heat back into the room. It has a very interesting shape with the semi-circular top. Years spent burning in fires and oxidizing in air have given its surface a rich, rough textured patina. The narrative depicts a solitary male figure in a somber attitude that reminds me of a mourning figure. I have always associated this fireplace plaque with a grave stele from classical times that showed a single figure mourning over the entombed personage.
The sad figure on this iron plaque is clothed in the contemporary French costume of his era. He is standing on a ground and there is a decorative form above him. I have tried to read the form of an angel in this floating image, but so far I have not been able to. I acquired this piece in an antiques market in Nice and because of its weight I would not have been able to transport it back to the United States. However, I was able to ship it (and two other heavyweight fireplace plaques) back home in a large container along with the two white Hubner carousel horses.
A ntique F ire B ucket c. 1800 Wood, rope and leather 17 inches Tall with handle, 8 ½ inches Diameter on top Red is certainly one of my favorite colors and I am attracted to some objects that have amazing red tonalities in them such as several Oriental carpets that I own, the “Toy Trolley” from New Orleans, various pieces of red and burgundy furniture that I have, and this extraordinary antique fire bucket. The color program of this antique is one of its beautiful qualities. The colored ground is dark red upon which gold, black and gold leaf is used with perhaps a little olive green to create depth and shading. The patina of this antique is another of its spectacular qualities. The cracking, peeling, chipping, crackling and fading are caused by excessive heat, handling, ageing and water. There is even the lovely detail of raised stitching running vertically down the back of the bucket where the leather is seamed together. This
stitching also encircles both outside and inside of the vessel’s top where the black leather joins the red. The bottom on the outside has a double row of these decorative and functional sewn stitches. Texture is an important component of this “Antique Fire Bucket.” The handle is made of rope with black leather sewn around it. It is now aged and dry, but interesting texturally along with the colorful body of the bucket. Fire Stations were known by symbols rather than numerals. This fire bucket belonged to the station of the burning books whose image is seen in the center of the design on the front of this cylindrical container. The decorative design has a bilateral symmetry to it and consists of the insignia and some fancy ribbons.
N eolithic P eriod V ase Neolithic period Clay pottery 5 inches Tall, 4 inches Diameter on the top This Chinese vase dates from the Neolithic period commonly thought to have begun 9000-8000 BC. This was the final phase of the Stone Age and was characterized by the domestication of animals, the development of agriculture and the manufacture of textiles and pottery. This remarkable vessel is over 10,000 years old. It has a lovely patina and is in relatively good condition. There are chips and scratches but the overall form is intact as are the decorative scheme and the original colors. The vase has a fine circular mouth, and then lessens in diameter in the neck section that has two handles attached to it symmetri-
cally. The form of the vase then swells outward circularly before tapering inward to the base. The overall shape has a simple beauty as does the black and red color scheme that resonates wonderfully with the beige tones of the pottery. There is a richness in the dark red color that was used both on the outside of the vase and in the inside on top. The geometric decoration benefits from this rich dark red color and uses it for the abstract sort of double triangular shapes that are found on the swelling portion, the dots on the neck and the bands of color in varying thickness.
C eremonial V essel c. 1st Century AD Clay pottery 4 inches Tall, 5 inches Wide from foot to foot This is a tripod bowl with dolphin rattle legs from Costa Rica from around the time of Christ. This vessel has a ball in each of its three hollow legs and this ball goes up and down within the legs and rattles when the bowl is shaken. This vessel was originally made for ceremonial use. This piece is a unique treasure in my collection. The bowl has two small handles on either side of it and three legs in the forms
of upside down dolphins. The qualities that make this piece of clay pottery special are the uniqueness of its design, the ceremonial usage for which it was made, the noise or music that it is able to produce, the beauty of its black and stone gray patina, the abstract dolphin forms of its legs, and the fact that it was a gift from my good friends, and fellow art collectors and connoisseurs, Willie G. and Nancy Davidson.
Louis Comfort Tiffany
C ordial G lass c. 1900 Glass 4 ½ inches Tall
Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) is an American artist who excelled in glassware and stained glass. This wonderfully designed “Cordial Glass” has an exquisite coloration because it is constructed of iridescent glass. The color of the glass seems to be gold, but becomes jewel-like as it sparkles with turquoise, aqua and purples when light reflects upon it. The glass is not only beautiful coloristically, but also it has a
decorative abstract design etched around the top. Four graceful curvilinear lines, that make wave-like shapes that dance across the rounded surface of the glass, are the basis for this etched design. The artist signed this work of art by scratching his initials “LCT” on the bottom of this “Cordial Glass.” I have used this glass occasionally and have drunk tequila, vodka and various liqueurs out of it.
C arved W alnut c. 1890 Ivory 2 inches High, 3 inches Across when opened This fun piece of ivory sculpture has the look and texture of a walnut when it is closed. Walnuts were symbolic of too much indulgence in sensual pleasures during the 16th century in Netherlandish Art. There are walnut shells on the floor in many dancing and tavern scenes in Flemish and Dutch paintings from this period. This ivory walnut may have similar connotations. When this walnut is opened, there is a carved relief scene in each of the round halves. Each scene seems to be domestic and there appears to be a man and a woman in each carving. The scene on the left depicts a dressed man in a room with a woman who seems to be assisting him with an article of clothing. I have always assumed that she is going to help him remove his clothing, but perhaps the image of the walnut is influencing me. The scene on the
right hand side of the sculpture represents a soldier or guard who has his back to the viewer. He has come into the room and has put his ax down as if his workday is finished. Another figure is in the room and I assume that she is a woman because of the voluminous folds of the drapery of the garments and the graceful swing to the stance of her body. Thusly, the sculptor is showing two intimate interior scenes and I believe the couples represented are embarking on amorous adventures and are going to have fun, as is the artist who carved these scenes within a walnut and as the viewer should when looking at these beautifully detailed tiny ivory carvings. There are wonderful details in these carvings such as the musculature of the soldier, the folds of the femalesâ€™ dresses, the clothing of the man on the left, and the buildings in the background.
G lass S cent B ottle 1900s Glass 8 inches Tall, 3 inches Wide This beautiful glass scent bottle has a sexy nude female figure in relief on the front. This type of glasswork from this specific town in the Czech Republic is characterized by the extraordinary green tonalities of the glass and the polished opaqueness of its surface. (I have forgotten the name of this type of glass and the town in which it is produced.) The square design of the handle of the stopper, the rigidity of the rectangular design of the entire bottle, the polished green surfaces of the piece and the stylistic details of the sexy femaleâ€™s stylized hair and idealized face are elements of the Art Deco style and would
date this glass work from the 1930s. However, I think that this particular style of glasswork has promulgated these stylistic references to the Art Deco movement throughout the entire 20th century. The rather high relief of the sensuous nude woman depicts a stylized elongated neck along with the Art Deco hair and face. The body shows the shoulders and breasts frontally and then sinuously twists into the space of the glass relief sculpture. This â€œScent Bottleâ€? is one of my favorite glass pieces in my collection and I enjoy its sensuousness and the beauty of its design and form.
P orcelain N ude F emale F igure 20th Century Hand painted porcelain 5 ½ inches Tall The Zsolnay Porcelain factory, in the old Roman city Pecs in Southern Hungary, was established in 1853. The Zsolnay factory is known for the iridescent glaze and luster that is the predominant characteristic of this glowing work. The viewer ’s eye is treated to a feast of iridescent color as light bounces off this “Nude Female Figure.” The base color used in this glaze is black. The design of this work of art is very reminiscent of the Art Deco era. The fabulous figure is sleek, abstracted, and a bit futuristic with its modernistic automaton like appearance. Her bend-
ing arms and hands form a graceful curvilinear motif with the mouth of the vessel. This porcelain piece makes me think of a woman looking into a well or fountain. In addition to the iridescent patina, this object also has lovely decorative patterning with curlicues, wavy lines, and abstracted organic forms. This “Nude Female Figure” adorns an exquisite porcelain vessel that perhaps is a purely decorative object or perhaps it functioned as a holder and dispenser of some liquid or powder.
V illage S treet 19th Century Wood marquetry 18 x 13 inches Marquetry uses various colored inlaid woods to make a picture. Every object, line, shadow and detail in this scene is rendered with colored pieces of different types of wood. Thin pieces of black wood are used for a variety of elements including the windows and the outlines of fence pieces, buildings, stairs, chickens, barrels, and the road. Woods with diverse textures and patterns are used for the road, architectural elements, trees, walls, fences and the blonde natural wood that is used for the sky. Some objects such as the staircase on the right side and the barrels are composed of many inlaid pieces to create shading and modeling of forms. Other images
such as the rooster in the middle of the road are made of various inlaid woods to create a richness of color and a wealth of detail. I was looking to acquire an example of marquetry for decades when I discovered this picture in an antique shop in southern France near Saint Paul de Vence. I am fascinated by the technique of marquetry and I enjoy this work of art immensely. Marquetry in this picture was used to model forms and give them volume. It was also employed to establish depth with linear perspective. The various colored woods were used as strokes of paint to formulate this extraordinary â€œVillage Streetâ€? scene.
Probably 1920s Wood inlaid and painted 11 x 7 x 2 ½ inches high This exquisite inlaid wooden box uses the technique of marquetry to create a wealth of decoration and patterning. It is an elaborate feast for the viewer ’s eyes as it showcases the unknown artist’s expertise with the marquetry technique. Most of the decorative details on the surfaces of this hand made box are created with inlaid pieces of various colored woods. There are some painted elements such as the narrow border at the extreme edge on the top of the cover of the box. These painted areas become trompe l’oeil because they look exactly like the inlaid wood sections.
The intricate overall design is masterfully conceived, is complicated and interesting, and is rich in the variety of its decorative patterning. The design also contains a large variety of colors and tonal variations. Mother of pearl is also incorporated into the marquetry scheme. This inlaid wooden box probably is European, perhaps French or English, but beautiful examples of the art of marquetry have been known to come from Italy. The high quality of craftsmanship and artistry dates this piece of Decorative Art at the height of the Art Deco movement.
Silhouette Of A Woman
Early 19th century Reverse painting on glass, mixed media 18 x 11 inches This English reverse painting on glass in a diorama setting most likely dates from the Victorian period. The silhouette of the elegant female figure is painted in black on the back (or reverse side) of the glass pane. This was commonly done, but placing this figure in a three-dimensional diorama of an English room is very special. The room contains drapery, carpeting, walls, wallpaper and a framed painting. There is a window in this room and the viewer can look out of it and see a garden with plants and the house across the
street. Various materials such as fabrics and papers were used to make the diorama. The distinctive birds eye maple frame is original to the picture. This reverse painting on glass was originally part of a pair and a silhouette of a man was its companion piece. However, now the â€œSilhouette Of A Womanâ€? lives alone in her comfortable diorama, wearing her fashionable dress and coiffure, and reads a book that she is holding in her hands.
F emale N ude L amp With A Murano Glass Shade 1930s Bronze with murano glass 16 inches Tall I found this exquisite lamp at the high quality flea market that is held every Monday in Nice in southern France. The nude bronze female figure has a pretty face and stylized hair. Her body is posed magnificently as she is balancing on the toes of her left foot. She is leaning over backwards and her left arm is behind her extending straight down to stabilize the figure. There are many gracefully sweeping curves in her outlines and contours that imbue her with a delightful sensuousness. Her bare body is feminine, healthy, well apportioned, lyrical in spirit, light in weight, naked yet demure, and characterized by elegance and beauty of form, manner and movement. Her right arm forms a wonderfully sweeping curvilinear accent as it reaches out in front of her to the right to gently rest
on the metal piece that holds the glass shade. This action compositionally connects the figure and the lampshade. The glass shade is a work of art in its own right. It is an antique piece of colored glass that comes from the famous Murano glass factory located outside of Venice. The colors are rich, bright and variegated. Turquoise, reds, purples, greens, yellows, blues, and white coexist provocatively and magnificently on the surface of this hand blown glass bell shape with a flared scalloped bottom edge. Some of the color on this spectacular piece of glass looks like it was applied by hand. This â€œFemale Nude Lamp With A Murano Glass Shadeâ€? is in working order and casts a low soft light.
Fun, Fine Art and Fantasy: The Robert Harris Rothchild Collection