After Loretta's recent post featuring a beautiful 19th c. carousel horse, I was delighted to spot this carved cat in the Art Museum of Colonial Williamsburg today. It's no longer attached to a carousel, and sadly no one will be riding on its back in the future, but with its shining glass eyes and a fish in its mouth, it still looks like it's ready to go.
Here's the information from the museum's card:
"Gustav Dentzel established the G.A. Dentzel Steam and Horse Power Carousel Company in 1867. In 1903, he hired Salvatore Cernigliaro, an experienced woodworker from Sicily who revolutionized production in the shop. Cernigliaro discontinued many of Dentzel's time-worn patterns and redesigned others, creating an expanded array of animals noted for playful poses, naturalistic details, and fanciful trappings. "Cernigliaro made the first examples of these innovative designs. Other carvers in the shop quickly emulated him, so it is difficult to determine whether the master himself crafted any particular figure. The company continued to sell Cernigliaro's exuberant leaping cat even after 1909 when Gustav Denzel died, his son, William, took over, and Cernigliaro left the firm. All of Dentzel's cats raise front left paws and grip prey in their mouths. In addition to fish, his felines grasp birds, frogs, crabs, and even squid."
Above: Carousel Figure: Cat, attributed to the Dentzel Carousel Company; carved by or after a design by Salvatore Cernigliaro (1879-1974), Philadelphia, PA c. 1903-1928. Painted basswood with glass eyes.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.