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:
Poire d’Angleterre (the English Pear), Puzzle 1
Cotsen 36485, 7.3 x 14 x 18.7 cm.
Above is a classic example of a modern Nigerian thorn carving from the early 1990’s. Made principally by the Yoruba people since the 30’s, these miniature folk art pieces (sometimes more appropriately referred to as “tourist art” depending on their intended market) usually feature scenes and aspects of everyday Nigerian life. This particular carving depicts a classroom scene where diligent pupils are learning their ABC’s.
The thorns used for these carvings come from 2 varieties of trees: the ata tree and the egungun tree. The thorns grow up to 5 inches in length and their relative suppleness makes for easier carving. They come in three colors: cream, rose, and brown; all three of which are exhibited in our little classroom scene. Though the carving above is mostly composed of recycled wood, the thorn wood provides the color and life of the piece.
Classroom scenes of all sorts are a collection interest of our benefactor Lloyd E. Cotsen. We find them all over the collection, in all sorts of mediums. For the occasion of Mr. Cotsen’s 75th birthday we published Readers in the Cotsen Children’s Library (Princeton : Cotsen Children’s Library, 2005). This accordion style pamphlet (available here in the gallery) included one such memorable classroom scene from our collection:
page 22, reproduction of Oranges and lemons : a book of pictures and stories for children (Cotsen 22656, page 18)
If your thirst for classroom related material is still unsatiated, I’d recommend Jeff Barton’s blog post: School Days in Children’s Books about depictions of school scenes from 18th and 19th Century children’s books.