Post Early for Christmas!

It is now , as I type, only 8 weeks and 2 days to Christmas!


It creeps up on you like a nasty illness! ( Not that I think, actually, Christmas is anything like an illness, I love it!)

I have not really been unaware of its presence lately. Over on my other blog, Whimsicals I have been Christmassy for a while now, as indeed I must, when my predominant product is perfumed with orange and cinnamon, pomegranate and plum pudding fruits, warm gingerbread and spruce. ( Not together you understand!) 😉

So I thought we would have a little taster, just to remind us that Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat and that it would be very nice if a few people could put a penny or two in the impecunious miniaturist’s hat!

One might wonder, on a blog devoted to dummy boards, what I might find to talk about that is related to Christmas.I’ve often said that there is practically no area of life into which the dummy board maker, over the last 5 centuries or so, has not poked his paintbrush! This celebration is not sacrosanct.

Christmas, of course as we know it, is a relatively modern festivity. I suppose we can really say that it ‘took off’ at the end of the 19th beginning of the 20th century. It was at this time that the dummy board maker, working in his decorative art studio where he, for the most part turned out signs for shops, painted carriages for the wealthy, and possibly embellished the dainty furniture and Art Nouveau walls that were becoming  all the vogue at this time, turned his attention to producing work specifically geared to the decorative demands of the season.

Christmas is without doubt, all the fault of the Germans….or more properly the Germanic peoples. They were the ones, eons ago, who thought about decking the halls with boughs of holly, kissing under mistletoe ( though it may have more sinister origins actually ), praising the holly and the ivy ( full grown or otherwise ) and dragging in the Yule log. That gives us a clue. Yule.

Dragging in the Yule Log ( Chambers book of Days.)

If you are one for old manuscripts, boring dead old languages and bits of ‘arcaniaand you know that I am, you will know that Yule or Giuli was a festivity practised by the Ancient Anglo Saxons way back when, in the deep mid- winter, when frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron and water like a….. oh for goodness sake…..!  and it was originally, a celebration of the Mother……How interesting…..

And so the whole thing is still, more or less ( if you take out the wanton greed and commercialism of our modern age ) a Paean to motherhood, babies and all that soppy stuff. Nothing originally, of course to do with yer actual Christ. ( But that’s another story). 😉

So it’s to Germany and Austria that we must look for the Christmas dummy board.

IN a tiny town out west, in the U.S.A. ( where else? ) run by a wonderful chap called Brian Goddold, ( wonderful name too), is a CHRISTMASABILIA COLLECTION!

I kid you not.:)

He has scoured the globe for all ‘old’ things to do with Christmas. He has 17th century Thuringian balls ( well! )  😉 made of glass, real silver tinsel from the 18th century, boxes full of 19th century dolls made of celluloid, glittery shapes made from strung beads, ancient moth eaten paper chains and this…..

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree, How lovely are your branches. < ahem>

This is a 19th century dummy board of a Christmas tree, standing four feet high. ON it we see all the usual paraphernalia we would expect on a tree of this age. Little bells, wrapped sweets, cones, dolls, jesters or punches with the hump; fruit, stars, candles ( real of course ), wonderful pull along animals and the ubiquitous bauble.

It was made at the end of the 19th century in Nuremburg, in Germany’s Bavarian region for display in chocolate and confectioners shops. They would slide them into the window amongst all the goodies that the shop had to offer.Gorgeous cakes and pastries, delicately decorated chocolate boxes and  shaped edible creations in the form of angels, bells and snow topped trees.

The shops around the towns of Germany/Austria would purchase our Christmas Tree to be novel and different and they would push the boundaries of decorative decency, filling their windows to bursting point with every example of the chocolatier’s/confectioner’s art, in order to be The Best In Show. And yes, believe it or not, there were prizes for the best one.

This little tree is a bit of an enigma. On it , it clearly says, Merry Christmas. What would a German tree be doing with an English greeting?

We think it’s possible this one was made for the export market…but we have no idea where it went. It was bought at auction in 1999 and had been in the U.S. for a while then. Maybe it was made for the American market. What ever, it’s a very ( forgive me ) sweet thing!

A chocolate museum in Austria the sort of building that would house the dummy board Christmas Tree

This tree is pretty unique. I know of only one other and sadly, that was photographed in the 1980’s and has since disappeared.

The second Christmas tree, rather crudely cut from his very cluttered original background.

The same thing applies though. It was a window display, a eye catcher, a point of sale accessory.

Another interesting Winter dummy board, is the Mistletoe girl.

This four foot high figure was made also at the end of the 19th century and is a direct copy of that wonderful painting by John Everett Millais ” The Mistletoe Gatherer”. Many paintings, as you have heard before on this blog, have been transferred to the dummy board form, over time and this one lends itself perfectly.

The Mistletoe girl

Nothing is known about it, except that it is painted by a talented artist and copyist and it is in private collection in France where it has been for many years.

There she sits, in the snow, her sickle in hand, a bundle of mistletoe strapped to her back, waiting for….well we don’t really know do we? Is she waiting for a customer to come and buy a sprig or will she sell the whole bundle to one greengrocer? The choice is yours.

And you have quite a bit of choice if you are looking for a figure to decorate your house this Christmas too. Modern Christmas dummy boards abound. There are bunnies dressed as Santas, Santas in every colour you can imagine….including red. There are anthropomorphic creatures of every phylum with which you may prink and preen your parlour.

Modern Naive Santa

A more 'traditional looking' Santa

However, if you really want CLASS – in the same collection as above in the U.S. are two most beautiful 4ft. Father Christmases. These too were for coffee, confectioner’s, chocolate shops. These too were hand painted in exquisite detail in Nuremburg Germany in the 19th century.

The green St. Nicholas with his traditional companion, the hare.

Of course they are not the sugary sweet Santa Claus in red that we see everywhere at Christmastide. They are the more earthy, rustic, original St. Nicholases.( I’ll show you the brown one later in the season.)

I couldn’t resist painting them in miniature, as I have the first tree and the girl gathering mistletoe. I doubt I will get the opportunity to see the like again, in my lifetime. They are so rare.

If they were available as a full sized figure, and I had a couple of thousand pounds ( each!) lying about I would certainly buy them could I come across them in auction. It’s possible I  could of course copy them full sized….but somehow their history gives them a real charm  a modern copy would never have.

The mini figures are available from me, at a lot less than a thousand pounds  😉 and all the Christmas figures featured here will be on show at the Kensington Dollshouse Festival in London on the 4th December.

Please do pass by the stand. You may never get the opportunity to buy them again.

I’m giving up painting them in the New year.

More anon.

So it’s a definite case of Post Early For Christmas!



3 Responses to “Post Early for Christmas!”

  1. Louise Goldsborough Says:

    Love this post. Very interesting.
    I thought you might be interested to know why Yule was originally a celebration of the mother:
    The ancient festival of Yule falls on the Winter Solstice or shortest day of the year (around 21st December).
    To set the scene: the mother Goddess figure (Mother Earth) is heavily pregnant and on this day she gives birth to….wait for it……the male God figure or Sun God.
    After his birth the rays of the sun gradually get stronger day by day as the Sun God grows. In other words, the day light hours gradually get longer by a few minutes each day.

    Best wishes,

  2. pastmastery Says:

    yes …It’s the same legend as Persephone and the Underworld.

    So many traditions have it…and yet Christians seem to think they have a monopoly on the end of year, birth of child, with no earthly Father, celebration.
    Thanks for that Louise.

  3. Prizes All Round! « Pastmastery's Blog Says:

    […] IN the window of Julie’s toyshop, just behind the wonderful lamb pulling a car, is the Christmas Tree dummy board. You have ALL seen this one before and quite recently in. Post Early for Christmas […]

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