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Whirligig: Soldier

1850-1900
Origin: America, New England possibly
Overall: 29 1/2 x 29 x 4in. (74.9 x 73.7 x 10.2cm)
White pine, iron and paint
Bequest of Effie Thixton Arthur
Acc. No. 1979.700.2
The figure wears a costume resembling military uniform, although no specific designation has been found. The piece is painted in a variety of colors: gray/tan for pants and shirt with yellow and black buttons and braid; black for shoes, hat (with pink oval in front), and hair and base; white for arms and wind paddles; red for coat with yellow and black for braid; flesh tones for face with features picked out in black. Arms are pegged into the rotating rod which runs through the upper torso. Torso, legs and head all appear to be carved from one piece with hat separate and doweled into head. Paddles are attached to arms with screws and metal washers. Buttons on jacket are carved and pegged in. Figure is attached to a black-painted wooden base which has a hole in center, presumably for mounting.
Label:This figure's hat, jacket, and pantaloons decorated with Austrian knots suggest the uniform of an American hussar or volunteer cavalryman of about 1810-1820. Military uniforms can be dated with some accuracy, but whirligigs depicting military figures are difficult to date because makers often illustrated soldiers from earlier periods. The figure's large size - almost two and a half feet tall with arm lengths of the same - hollowed-out ears, individually carved buttons pegged into the figure, and grim expression give the whirligig singular distinction. Originally mounted on a rod that enabled its rotation, this whirligig probably appeared ominous when its large paddles were activated by the wind.


Provenance:Bequest of Effie Thixton Arthur, Wilton, Conn.