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Carousel Figure: Bactrian Camel

1880-1885
Origin: America, New York (probably) Brooklyn (possibly)
Overall: 61 x 55 x 12in. (154.9 x 139.7 x 30.5cm)
Tulip poplar, paint, iron, and glass
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1967.703.1
A freestanding figure of a two-humped camel carved from laminated wood and painted. The beast wears a lightly incised halter and has brown taxidermist eyes, his mouth slightly open. Both feet on the proper left side of his body are advanced, with both proper right feet at more of a right angle to the axis of his body. The brown animals wears a saddle blanket that is green in the center, bordered by yellow, followed by a band of red with fringe. A hole goes through the foreward hump. The camel's topknot and neck hair are carved in convincing relief.
Label:The carver and date of the camel are the focus of on-going research. Some think the figure originated at the New York Carousel Manufacturing Company operated by Charles W. F. Dare (?-1901) in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York, others suspect the nearby factory operated by Charles I. D. Looff (1852-1918). The difficulties of attributing carousel figures stem from the frequency with which individual carvers changed employers, worked freelance, and imitated one another, plus the infrequency with which they signed their work. Carousel owners also often created composite machines, mixing animals from various sources as the original ones wore out.
In accordance with their dignified nature, camels were invariably depicted in walking poses, classifying them as "standers" in modern parlance (having three or four feet on the ground). Double-humped Bactrian camels like this one offered a convenient natural seat for children; no dromedaries (one-humped) carousel camels have been noted. The museum's animal is relatively simply carved, and although its neck assumes a realistic curve and sports convincingly rendered fur, its body proportions are somewhat blocky compared with those of later, more wasp-waisted renderings.




Provenance:Frederick-Thomas Associates, Inc., New York, NY.