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Archive for Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Figurines represent fertility

October 18, 2012

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Babies don’t always arrive as soon as they are wanted. Today a woman might consider getting medical help to conceive, but since ancient times the fertility symbol was thought to be an aid.

Frogs, rabbits, entwined snakes and even shoe figures were at one time given to the want-to-be mother. Some ancient peoples took small pottery figures of pregnant women to a religious service as an offering. American Indians put pictures on textiles and pottery of an old, bent man playing a flute or carrying a cane who brought babies to a household.

Perhaps most interesting to collectors is the German “Kinder Bringen.” He or she was a figure, often a jester, who carried armloads of babies dressed for baptism. The babies were covered in tight cloth wraps much like swaddling clothes but called “taufling.”

All of these German words are used today, even by English-speaking collectors, to describe the dolls or figurines given to a new bride as a wish for children.

A few of these figures have sold at recent doll auctions. At a 2012 auction, a 19th-century, 5-inch porcelain figure of a smiling jester holding four wrapped babies sold for almost $1,000.

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