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Weathervane: Snake

ca. 1850
Origin: America, New England, possibly Connecticut
Overall: 8 3/4 x 29 3/4 x 1/2in. (22.2 x 75.6 x 1.3cm)
Sheet iron
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1932.800.3
Sheet iron silhouette snake weather vane with two coils in tail. Mouth open and tiny wiggly metal tongue bolted onto mouth. Hole for eye. Head held high. At second of middle upward bump of body, a pole goes through the body to support it. Metal braces are placed on either side of the pole and body to brace it. Tail ends in coils which are also braced with sheet metal. Pole holds body on a slight angle so that head is slightly higher, and direction is indicated by head and pointing tongue. The iron braces are all crudely cut, and the bolts are large flat headed bolts. Second tail loop is formed by two pieces. Mouth has serrations to indicate teeth. Old, with honest signs of age. Artist unidentified.
Label:This snake's gaping mouth, serrated teeth, and ominous tongue perpetuate the stereotypical image of serpents as venomous aggressors. Nevertheless, the silhouette's rhythmic grace and sinuous beauty contrast markedly with conventional belief.

Minute details of this vane, such as the teeth, the twisted-wire tongue, and the carefully placed eye are unusual considering that weather vanes were typically placed some distance from the viewer, often rendering such details indiscernible. But the maker's skill at working iron and the pleasure taken in designing and fabricating the piece apparently outweighed such practical considerations.
Provenance:George F. Ives, Danbury, Conn.; Mr. and Mrs. Elie Nadelman, Riverdale, NY; Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY; purchased from Halpert by AARFAM's donor, Mrs. J. D. Rockefeller, Jr.