An Intriguing & Wonderfully Decorative Primitive Painted Birch Pigeon Carrier c.1870

Origin: French or possibly Scandinavian
Period: Mid/Late 19thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870-80
Width: 10.5”
Height: 13” or 39” with hanging chains
Depth: 15.75”

The beautifully curious painted birch wood pigeon carrier house having a semi-elliptical opening to the front, sloped roof and original iron hanging chains, surviving largely in original condition with an outstanding textured painted surface, hailing from Martel, a small medieval town in the south of France, and an early estate made example of a pigeon carrier box.

The whole shows attractive wear and tear with scuffing and losses commensurate with its age, which is of course the appeal, with the whole in largely original order and with the carcass structurally sound. The beautiful paint remnants show the original duck egg grey layering to much of the surface. There is a circular vacant space where there would have been a brass or metal name plaque just over the opening. The base is a later replacement and somewhat matched in to the sides, presumably because of the build up of feces and dirt over the years, making it soft and decayed. We have left the entire piece alone, delighting in its originality. As the piece is in birch it may have found its way to France from Scandinavia, or even America, but this is unclear.

As the entrance is not to the bottom of the house it rules the piece out as being a dog or cat kennel, and although there is no perch or ledge to the lower edge of the entrance, we believe the flat surface to the lip of the entrance would be sufficient for a bird such as the pigeon, and we have seen comparable (though a lot later) examples following this design for pigeon carriers. The iron chains, which are no doubt original, make one think it would have been hanging at all times and these would also have aided its transportation.

This is a wonderfully curious and attractive piece of vernacular folk art and early for its type. If not intended for the humble pigeon then perhaps a babe from Cerberus the hound of Hades?