German Noah's Ark with Noah & His wife and 91 Animals & Birds,
From the Erzgebirge Region,
A magnificent hand painted flat-bottomed Noahs Ark probably from the Erzgebirge area complete with Noah, his wife. It comes with ninety-one hand carved and painted animals and birds including elephant, giraffes, deer, horse, moles lions and camels.
Most of the animals in these arks are fanciful. Production in the 19th century was largely a cottage industry. One family may have made only horses while another only monkeys. The family making monkeys had probably never seen a monkey nor did it matter. Some families employed all members of their family making a variety of animals and arks. They were producing toys, not biology teaching tools so their imaginations were reflected in their animals. Green and blue mammals were common .
They were first shaped on a lathe. A piece of wood was turned into a donut shape with its surface the shape of the animal to be made. The donut is then sawed or hand cut radially to separate the individual animals. The animals thus have a slight wedge shape seen from above. The separated, roughly shaped animals were then hand shaped, and painted. Some families only did carving while others only painting.
The rarest animals are the small ones such as insects and snakes. Also uncommon are animal pairs which have different poses such as one looking and the other feeding.
Height: 7 1/2 inches
Width: 17 inches
Depth: 5 1inches
Bethnall Green Museum of Childhood, London. Childhood Toys throughout the ages, Leslie Daiken (B.T.Battisford Ltd, London) plate 97.
Folk Art, Robert Young (Mitchell Beasley) p.118 for a very similar one.
The Erzebirge Regio of Germany
The Erzgebirge region in Germany has become very popular and world known for its creation of beautiful and whimsical nutcrackers, smoker men, Christmas pyramids and candle arches. This region, located on the eastern side of Germany, is mountainous hence the name Erzgebirge which translates to Ore Mountains. The Erzgebirge region is a low mountain range and the climate is highly influenced by the bitterly cold winds from Russia. The highest mountain is the Keilberg Mountain which reaches up at 4081 feet high. There are approximately one million inhabitants in the Erzgebirge region. The largest city, Freiberg, boasts around 42,000 inhabitants.
During the cold winter months, the Erzgebirge region is a highly popular tourist attraction. With the more than 100 museums and the wonderful snow for skiing, as well as the world famous Christmas Fairs, tourism reaches millions of visitors each year.
Seiffen, Olbernhau and Marienberg cities are highly popular for their craftsmanship and their Christmas traditions which are centuries old.
The land area of the Erzgebirge region is approximately 90 miles long and 30 miles wide and the landscape is one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. Before the turn of the 12the century, settlement in the Erzgebirge region was difficult due to the winter climate. During the 15th century, however, settlements were sparked due to large deposits of silver and tin that were discovered in the area. During the 16th century, the Ore Mountains Erzgebirge region became very popular and very wealthy as miners worked to collect the silver and tin. More settlers arrived each year in hopes of sharing the wealth from this beautiful region.
During the 19th century, however, the mining industry slowly trickled to a stop and miners were forced to find other ways of earning a living. The very last silver mine was closed in 1913 and although some mines were re-opened during World War I and World War II, they did not stay open for long and soon the miners were searching for work again.
After the fall of the mining industry in the Ore Mountains miners were forced to find other ways in which to support themselves and their families. Many miners had hobbies that included woodcarving. These traditions of hand carving date back to around the 15th century when miners would create toys and other needed items for their homes. With the fall of the mining industry, many miners decided to try their hand at creating wooden collectibles and other items of use to sell at local fairs and markets. More and more workshops opened up and more and more miners became highly skilled at the art of creating beautiful wooden treasures. Soon the mining industry was all but forgotten and Erzgebirge was once again on its way to prosperity, only this time it was due to the skill and talent of the inhabitants and their creations of beautiful and exquisite wooden figurines and ornaments.
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