At 2ft 4in (71cm) across with a ‘boatbottom base’, this ranks among the largest and more deluxe produced and it included a large complement of well-carved and decorated figures.
As well as figures of Noah and his wife were 28 pairs of animals, including fanciful giraffes, elephants, comical monkeys and moles, plus a remarkable 37 pairs of birds from swans to peahen and pigeons. Some of the very smallest figures, such as a pair of ladybirds, are particularly hard to find. Overall the paintwork was in very good condition.
The production of these pine models in Erzgebirge, Bavaria, revolved around a cottage industry as wood carving replaced silver and tin mining as the region’s primary economic driver. One family may have made only horses while another only monkeys. Some families carved while others painted.
Arks were made in a number of sizes and in three styles – flat bottoms, round bottoms and, the most desirable, boat bottoms.
Earlier versions have loose ‘lift off’ tops and sliding panels rather than hinges.
Several collectors and dealers were beguiled by this particularly fine example with its painted decorative frieze and a dove on the roof and rich number of accessories.
A welcome – if not typical – entry to the Knightsbridge Gentleman’s Library sale on February 14, it sold well over the estimate of £2000-3000 at £12,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).