A Mid-19thC German Life Size Articulated Seated Mannequin c.1860

Origin: German
Period: Mid-19thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1860
Height: 52”
Width: 18”
Depth: 37” (all approximate and at extremities)

The rare life size articulated mannequin or stuffed lay figure with articulated beech?? arms and legs, wooden jointed under structure and papier mache legs with painted gesso surfaces, now distressed with age, the pressed card sectional torso with cotton stokinette, lacking the hands, surviving from mid-nineteenth century Germany.

The condition of the mannequin would be described as relatively good; there are age related marks to the whole, the cotton stokinette is soft that is covering the body though has minimal tears, with the arm joints working as intended. He is lacking the hands and the legs painted and gessoed surface is chipped making it very decorative. It is harder to find mannequins in a seated position. This example may not have had a head in its life.

At the time of its creation these mannequins were actually quite ephemeral and the focus wasn’t on them being made to last. Even so, the prominent painter William Etty still parted with £48 for one in 1823, the equivalent of £5300 now.

The articulated human figure made of wax or wood has been a common tool in artistic practice since the 16th century. Its mobile limbs enable the artist to study anatomical proportion, fix a pose at will, and perfect the depiction of drapery and clothing. Over the course of the 19th century, the mannequin gradually emerged from the studio to become the artist's subject, at first humorously, then in more complicated ways, playing on the unnerving psychological presence of a figure that was realistic, yet unreal--lifelike, yet lifeless.

…“The seated mannequin is destined to inhabit rooms, especially in the corners of rooms; open air does not suit holiness. This is where they are at home; where they display the gifts of their ineffable and mysterious poetry”… Giorgio de Chirico; Birth of the Mannequin 1938.