Above is our newly acquired set of three French jigsaw puzzles: Les Fruits Animes! (The Animated Fruits!). Though Cotsen has many jigsaw puzzles, this might be our first fruit-themed toy. Featuring numerous fruits from around the world, and even some nuts, the jigsaw puzzles gives each piece of produce a personality. I’d also like to mention that this is the best example in the Cotsen collection of figures in period dress . . . with fruits and nuts for heads.
This set of jigsaw puzzles was illustrated by A. Belloguet, and lithographed by H. Jannin at his shop on Rue des Bernardins in Paris. Though undated, other work by Belloguet and Jannin (at this particular address) point towards a date of manufacture in the mid- to late 19th century (maybe 1870s).
Some of the personifications are unfairly essentializing: such as the “savage” looking Ananas (pineapple) or the orientalized Chinois (found in puzzle 3 and 1 respectively). Meanwhile, smaller and sweeter fruit are more likely to be anthropomorphized into young girls. Most of the characters, however, seem to have been chosen for more benign associations: such as the brown-robed monk Noix de coco (coconut) with his brown husked head ( found in puzzle 3). But of course, what 19th Century French publication would be complete without a little dig at proper English ladies:
it reminds me of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ puzzle—a classic.It’s something simple ages 3-5 could easily put together, about the same size as these puzzles.
It’s my favorite ‘toy’.