A Charming Mid 19thC French Papier-Mâché & Leather Pull Along Horse

Origin: French
Period: Early/Mid Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1840-60
Length: 11 inches
Height: 9.5 inches (to ear)
Width: 3 inches

The decorative pull along papier-mâché horse caparisoned with leather saddle cloth, stirrups and reins, with rope twist tail, inset glass eyes, long leather ears and black painted hooves, the whole presented on the original iron wheels surviving from the first half of nineteenth century France.

Condition is entirely original and thus there are weak points and areas of staining and wear but this is nothing short of desirable to many, with expected amounts of playworn associated wear. There is a small hairline crack to one leg but it remains stable with the tail, ears and hooves all remaining largely in tact as are the original castor wheels on which he sits.

To make these toys, glued paper was pasted right round the mould until it was covered. After drying, it was cut in two and the two halves glued back together. They were then decorated with either paint or paper. This toy is a good example of a folk art piece and it was more than likely made by a parent for his child and may have included a trap that would have been attached to the horse. The life of papier-mâché toys in Europe was fairly short lived as folk soon realised that they were not robust enough and turned to other stronger materials such as composition and wood. The well known “Barking Bulldogs” of the 1890’s had hidden wheels in their feet similar to this example, though this piece is earlier which is easily surmised by the beautiful wear and patination it shows. More commonly this type of child’s horse would sit on a plinth base that would bear the wheels, rather than the wheels being directly positioned on the hooves themselves.

An early and folksy example of its type this chap is hugely evocative with naïve and primitive sensibilities and proves simply impossible not to like.