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Whirligig: Man in High Hat

1875-1900
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Germantown area (poss)
Overall: 19 3/4 x 10 1/4 x 6 1/2in. (50.2 x 26 x 16.5cm)
Eastern white pine, sheet iron, lead, and paint
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1957.700.3
Painted, carved wooden, full-length figure of a man with long nose and long, stylized ears. The head is the largest feature, his body short and his feet tiny. A tin high hat and coat tails were added, the latter fastened at the waist with nails. Shoe heels and soles are carved. The eyes are open and staring with no pupils. the figure is painted overall a greyish-white. The arms pivot and are bent at elbows, with thin wind paddles serving as extremities. The figure stands on a tiny round base that rotates.

Artist unidentified.
Label:This figure's simple contours can be associated with a number of twentieth-century sculptures, particularly the plaster "Top-Hatted Man" made about 1918-1922 by Elie Nadelman (1882-1946). There is no indication that Nadelman saw this figure before creating his own work, but the visual similarities between the two object illustrate the formal kinship between many early modernists and naive artists of the preceding century.
Aside from carved shoe heels and soles, this figure's tin hat and coattails are his only suggestion of clothing, perhaps indicating that the piece was meant to be viewed from a distance.
Provenance:Found in Germantown, Pa.; Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY; Mr. and Mrs. Holger Cahill, New York, NY; M. Knoedler & Co., New York, NY.