A rare and detailed example of Napoleonic Prisoner of War carving, we have only come across a handful of spinning jennies, worldwide, of this size, quality, condition and number of figures in our 44 year history.
Both wood platforms are covered in patterned straw work. The top platform has five carved figures, all with excellent details and touches of color. A man and woman are seated on high back chairs- she is the spinner and sits in a fine dress and bonnet. The gentleman at her side wears an officer's uniform, with tall plumed hat and his sword in his hand. To his right, another fine lady in a blue dress steps out for a turn on the dance floor. To their right, a couple also stand ready to join the dance. He is also in military uniform with red coat and a green trim which matches his lady's dress.
The lower platform shows two archers with bows at the front, each with a dog at their feet. On the back, two elegant ladies stand in dresses with red polychrome details and pleated petticoats. These figures surround an ornately carved mechanism of gears and levers which control the four actions in the piece. The spinning wheel turns, the seated gentleman raises and lowers his sword and the lady to his right and the couple to the left dance.
Made by prisoners of war, usually French, held in English camps during the Napoleonic Wars, these items seldom survive the centuries since their creation in the late 18th and early 19th century. Most soldiers were conscripts, and had other trades in their lives back home. Prisoners with suitable talents carved highly delicate ship models and artifacts including spinning jennies such as this one, from the bones left over from the prison kitchens along with whatever straw or wood they could find. The prisoners could sell their creations to British officers and the local public, giving them a bit of income and something to while away the time.
Creating such an exquisite piece under the difficult circumstances the craftsman lived under demanded his extreme skill, delicacy and untiring patience. The person who created this piece was clearly one of the most talented craftsman creating these figures. In outstanding condition for its age, this piece has the rare combination of qualities that put it at the top of this art form.
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