A Large Mid-20thC Painted Papier-mâché Nodding Elephant c.1940-60

Origin: English
Period: Mid-20thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c..1940-60
Height: 22”
Width: 34”
Depth: 12” (all at extremities)

The most likely unique and most certainly charming large hand painted model of a stylised elephant at almost three feet long, with a nodding weighted head, the whole black painted with brown highlighted feet and ivory painted tusks, and with wooden soles to its feet, the whole surviving from the second quarter of the twentieth century.

Remaining in good overall condition considering the fragility, the elephant is very decorative. The nodding mechanism needs some attention to the rod to make it rock easier than it currently does. There is some loss to the lower section of one of the tusks as photographed.

Nodding elephants such as these were at their earliest high-Victorian creations and some stood on wheels also. There were also instances where they were electrically operated automaton for shop display windows.

Papier mâché became an industry in England in 1772 when Henry Clay of Birmingham took out a patent for its making and as a result produced the inexpensive plastic of its time, easily be molded into desired shapes. As indicated by its name, it was mashed or pulped paper, which was first, molded, then baked, to drive off the moisture that had reduced it to pulp. When it became firm and hard it was finished with an enamel-like coat of paint and was then ready for a wide variety of decorative treatment.

The sheer size of this example makes it really attractive from a decorator’s perspective.