This is a great small sized German Noah's Ark dating from the early 1900s, probably made in  ErzgebirgeThere are 29 animals and two figures, the two elephants are replacements. Each of the animals has been hand carved and painted.

The ark has a flat bottom base and a hinged roof. Hand painted on all four sides . It measures 31cm in length on the base by only 9cm d by 12cm h.

 

In the Victorian times, a strict adherence to the Sabbath meant that British children were only allowed to play on a Sunday if they used biblical toys. And so, Noah’s Arks were popular gifts for children who needed entertaining!

 

Each toy comes with a valuable tale of family labour, time, and care. Erzgebirge is an idyllic German town, nestled in the mountainous forests of East Germany. Underneath the traditional surface is a tumultuous history of hardship.

 

After a rush in silver, and then tin, the region’s mines were suffering from a lack of resources. Aside from essential uranium, in the 19th century, vey little else could be mined. For survival, families had to turn to traditional toy making from the immense pine trees that marked the landscape surrounding them. 

 

Fathers would deftly plane pine boards, whilst children would assemble arks with tacks and hot bone glue. One child recalls, ‘it was ceaseless work. We made those arks and they went to the homes and bedrooms of children worldwide’. Once assembled, the ark would be sold to a painter who would sell the decorated ark to wholesalers at markets. The animals, made by another family in the village, would be painted and united with their home at the market. If a family was large enough, they could paint, fill, and make an ark together. 

 

The animals were made using a lathe to reduce waste and improve efficiency; from the trunk of a pine tree. Large rings were carved on a lathe approx. 60 pieces were cut from the ring and made into animals. Each piece would individually be hand sanded, primed, painted, and finished with shellac or lacquer) The variety of animals that have been carved suggest that the boat’s occupants would have come either from observations of wildlife, the carver’s imagination, or any available books. 

 

 

The wonderful workmanship of these arks, the history behind them and the thought of children playing with them make these very sought after. As with many loved toys, it is often that sets lose animals or have damage, but they still can make thousands of pounds…

 

A Small Folk Art Noah's Ark

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