This is a 19th century, flat-bottom, painted Noah’s Ark which was made in Erzgebirge, a region of East Germany which is well known for its traditional creation of wooden toys.
This lovely, well-painted, small Noah’s Ark comes with a mixture of 31 carved and painted animals and birds. It includes a giraffe, monkey, hare and pigs, to name but a few.
The animals are all hand painted, some with old repairs and four animals with broken limbs in need of surgery… three of the bird’s feet are damaged but will still stand. The ark has a lift up lid for storage of the animals.
It measures approx. 11 x cm h to the apex of the roof x 27.5 cm w x 8xm d.
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…