I've saved the best for last. This incredible German papier-mache Father Christmas/Belsnickel, ca. 1890, measures 25 inches tall and could possibly have also been a candy container at one time, although now glued shut. His coat and hat are trimmed in black curly cloth "fur," which is supposed to simulate Persian lamb trim. The buttons on the coat are of papier- mache, made to look like they were made of deer horn which were worn by the Germans in that time period. His basket is hand woven and very fragile.
Eyes and eyebrows are beautifully hand painted. Examining the coat closely, one can see when opening up the folds of the coat in the back that the original color was once light blue. It has faded over time to a light gray.
His beard is the most magnificent I've ever seen on a Belsnickel. It's not made from the usual rabbit fur that the Germans used on their early papier-maches. Some type of goat perhaps? In any event, it looks just like real hair, and the perfect shade of gray.
Oh, and by the way ...
Collectors love to create scenes under their Christmas trees or Christmas displays with the early 1900s Erzgebirge (or so-called "Putz" by the Americans). I've taken photos of a part of my early 1900s collection to show you the range of items that were made. I was first introduced to Erzgebirge through the pieces my mother received as a child from relatives in Germany, some of which are pictured above in these carnival pieces.
Large tour buses here are pictured with a large and detailed ferris wheel, what in German is referred to as a "Russische Schaukel," or Russian swing. It turns with a crank on the side.
Wheeled vehicles are a favorite of collectors.
Here a tiny papier-mache Santa in sleigh with reindeer is paired with an early snow plow on the left. The Büdo Luxus delivery truck is a rare advertising piece. The red/white paper label on both sides is in excellent condition, hard to find on a piece this old and meant to be played with.
Pictured is a part of my collection of Erzgebirge ships. Those on wheels, as you can imagine, are rare.
Here I've included some military figures pre-1900.
These military vehicles are very detailed, and include even a bi-plane.
This wonderful papier-mache jester lantern is considered a Christmas piece. He has curls of mohair sticking out from under his cap and a gathered lace collar; paper inserts for eyes and teeth. The inside is heavily coated with wax where a candle was once lit at the holidays. Measures 4 1/4 inches tall, not including the wire handle.
By now you've probably realized how talented my sister is. She shows her artistic talent in her baking and photography and is a genius at repairing textiles, from antique rugs to a hole in a sweater. On my last visit a young man dropped off an expensive rug for her to repair that his German Shepard puppy had chewed up, and I brought along an old sweater coat for her to restore. Poor thing. She is somehow always involved in my projects (she would call it "roped in"), but she always comes through, just as she did with the Christmas stockings for my five grandchildren.
My closets and drawers are overflowing with antique German linen and grain
sacks, and I thought the old grain sacks would be beautiful made up into
Christmas stockings. I washed and pressed the old sacks and sent them on to
Minnesota for Eileen to work her magic. A few weeks ago the stockings arrived
ready for hanging. She also cut up an antique turkey red jacquard weave
tablecloth for the cuffs at the top of each stocking, and the fringes from the
tablecloth are the perfect touch. They are really special and something
the children will all treasure as they get older.
This large old board with Santa and a beautiful Christmas Eve scene is known as a Stollenbrett, or a board on which to serve Stollen at Christmastime. Stollen is my absolute favorite. It's a sweet yeast dough filled with raisins (or currants, etc.) and heavily coated with powdered sugar. Perfect with a cup of hot chocolate. Some people compare it to fruit cake, but it's really not at all like it. I received a care package from Germany already in late October filled with chocolates and a Stollen. I brought it along for Thanksgiving morning in St. Paul, so there is none left for Christmas morning. Of course, the board would be perfect to use at a Christmas party for any kind of sweets, or even cheese and crackers. The scene on this one is particularly nice.
I've just arrived home after a very special day visiting new friends who are long- time members of Golden Glow of Christmas Past. If I didn't have the Christmas spirit by now, today's visit guaranteed it! The family room boasts three large trees absolutely laden with ornaments, while every kind of Santa with sleigh and reindeer (celluloid, wooden, metal, you name it) cover every inch of the floor underneath the trees. No room for presents here!
The mantle is lined with a charming display of Christmas Lichterhäuser (light houses), which are also displayed around the room. There was so much to see, at first glance I totally missed the hand carved mantle with a spring of holly in the center and Santas encircled in a wreath on either end.
Off in another corner is a table covered with dozens and dozens of large scale hand carved creche figures and large creche by master carver Louis Sarvary. Louis Sarvary was born in Hungary, and in 1946 he left his homeland and settled in Germany. Two years later, while visiting the mountain village of Oberammergau, he saw wood carvings which made a profound impression on him. In 1951 Louis Sarvary moved to the United States, and it wasn't until several years later that he returned to Oberammergau and eventually studied carving there under one of the outstanding master carvers, Guenter Guerke. He continued to live in the US until he passed away, earning his living from his creations.
Although Sarvary lived and carved in the United States, he imported the wood for his carvings from Oberammergau.
This wise man on camel is 10 inches tall.
This half-tree hangs on the wall over the creche. My friends commissioned Louis Sarvary to carve the angels which hang from the tree.
A sincere thank you to my friends for a wonderful day!
Large German Christmas diorama heavily covered in mica to simulate snow. Man on skis is walking through the snow standing next to a tree that has lost its leaves. A tree stump on the right is actually a candy container. On the left, an old tin candleholder is embedded in the snow. The figure on skis is wearing a suit made of rabbit fur. Early German toy makers used rabbit fur frequently in creating their wares. Most early Santas have white rabbit fur beards, and Krampus or devil items (as the Krampus in yesterday's post) often had hair of rabbit fur.
We can't forget Krampus at Christmas! Krampus is a figure in Bavarian and Austrian folklore who punishes the bad children in the Christmas season, giving them lumps of coal (or worse) and carrying them off in his sack. A similar character in German folklore is Knecht Ruprecht, but Krampus is the one most familiar to collectors of all things Christmas. This German candy container shows Krampus as he is usually depicted with his large tongue hanging out. His green glass eyes add to the menacing look. No wonder children were good at Christmastime. The threat of Krampus coming must have really been frightening.
This is an unusual German light house nativity diorama from the 1930s. It is electrified, rather than using candles, and is constructed of hard paper and wood. The top two tiers are made up of houses on the sides and front, and the bottom tier has more houses on the sides with a creche in the center. Hand painted wooden flat figures make up the nativity scene displayed on a wooden base with a fence encircling the display.
It is especially beautiful at night when light shines through the windows and creche on all levels.
Early Erzgebirge Christmas diorama in walnut shadow box frame with a red-coated Santa, painted wooden sled with presents, and an old Tannenbaum with large eight-pointed mica star in the background.
Welcome to Living Tastefully’s “Antique of the Week” page. Our love of antiques is reflected in every aspect of our everyday lives. We are passionate about collecting and also love functional antiques that can actually be used and not only admired. Hopefully we can inspire you to incorporate antiques in your home and your life to add charm and beauty to your surroundings.