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Cheval Glass

1904 (dated)
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Tarr
OH: 85 3/8"; OW: 51 3/8"; OD: 36"
Butternut, ash, pine, glass, and iron.
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1995.2000.1
"Tramp Art" carved wood frame enclosing glass mirror supported on two pivots that are mounted into two upright elements that are mortised and pinned into a trestle base having a medial stretcher. Carved all over with abstract repetitive designs, patterns, images of chain links, ladder, stylized fish and boat, doorway, tree stump, open book, bird nest, cross, signautre, dates, and inked inscriptions. Glass is held in rabbets by thin boards (taken from crate in which mirror was originally shipped to Fox) mounted horizontally and held in place by nails.
Label:David Fox took more than eight years to complete this impressive cheval glass. He is said to have started carving at age 14 and suffered from an affliction that prevented him from receiving more than a few hours of sleep each night. A 1931 newspaper story claimed that 60,000 people visited his home between 1928 and 1931 to see his sculptures; by 1940 another newspaper claimed the number of visitors was 300,000.

The imposing frame of the glass is covered in stylized, naturalistic, and conceptual images, many religious in nature. Besides images of a cross and Jacob's ladder leading to the door of Heaven, Fox carved a bird's nest with eggs and a Bible opened to inked inscriptions from Genesis, St. Matthew, and Colossians. In a photograph taken at a Fox family reunion in 1911, we see a paper banner attached to the top of the frame on which is written "Yea! What hath God wrought."
Provenance:David W. Fox, Tarr, PA.; to his son Clayton Fox, Tarr, PA.; to his nephew, Maurice Fox (1965), Willmington, DE.; upon his death (1990) to his daughter, Mary Lou Fox Walls, Newark, or Wilmington, DE.
Mark(s):"By/David/W./Fox./Jan./1904" is carved at LR of frame on reverse. "1904" is carved into top of inner face of right frame member. Inscribed in ink on left and right "pages" respectively of carved open "book" located at top of lower frame member is: (left page) "Genesis/In the beginning/God created/the heaven and/the earth./And God said,/let us make/man in our/image, after/our likeness:/ And the word God/formed man of/the dust of the/ground and breathed into his (?) the/ ‚ breath of life (?)/and man became/a living soul" and, (right page) "Saint Matthew/And she shall bring/forth a son and/thou shalt call his name/Jesus, for he/shall save his/ people from their/sins/ Colossians/Who is the image/of the invisible/ God, the first/ born of /every creature".