A fabulous mid to late 1800s German Noahs Ark probably from the Erzgebirge region in German.
This flat bottom ark has a sliding side to open it up. Inside are over 150 wooden animals and birds which is most unusual as usually these arks have lost many or all of the animals. It also has two figures representing Noah and his wife.
The is a wide range of animals ranging from three varieties of monkeys to camels, giraffes, lions, horses, moles, tigers and many more all hand painted.
The ark measures 53cm in length from the point at each end of the base x 25.5cm h x 17cm d.
The paintwork to the ark appears to be original and is worn in places.
Nearly all the animals can stand some have repairs to the legs and ears.
There are over 30 different birds most of these have some damage to the legs etc.
A rare piece retaining so many of the animals and birds.
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…