A Rare Early 20thC Painted Plaster Laughing Clown Fairground Ball-Toss Game c.1910-20

Origin: English
Period: Edwardian/George V
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1910-20
Height: 26”
Width: 21”
Depth: 16” (all at extremities)

The early fairground or carnival ball game, comprising of a now fragmentary white washed plaster and hessian body with ruffled upper, to cast iron inner piping, to the original painted plaster clowns head with red highlights and conical pierrot hat, having an open mouth to act as the target for wooden balls, the whole now on a later teak base and presented in re-assembled but un-meddled with condition and surviving from the first quarter of twentieth century England.

The clown came to us in several pieces and we have had him carefully re-assembled though with no intention to erase his history by re-painting or using new materials, aside from the teak base, which we have added so he is stable and can be transported. The head and tube still move side to side as they should.

These laughing clowns were seen in rows of multiple heads in different colours with each moving side to side in tandem and with the scoring slots sitting underneath the iron shoot tubes. The later examples are made of cast iron and then later again, fibreglass. This game was a descendent from the slightly earlier passé-boule (ball-toss) which was a very popular fairground game in France from the 19th century onwards and the masks often depict figures to be ridiculed.

Remaining evocative of the magic of the fairground a full century on, this is the earliest example we have seen to date, and now an incredibly emotive piece of carnival sculpture.