Walnut carving of a man with a donkey’s head


c. 1890




Height 53.75 inch. Width 14.50 inch. Depth 11.00 inch.

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A whimsical Italian walnut carving of a man with a donkey’s head, the naturalistically carved head of the donkey, with furry ears and a curly mane growing to a point beyond his collar, is set upon the slender body of a dandy wearing a double-breasted tailcoat, breeches, a stiff upright collar with a bow at the neck and further bows on his shoes, carrying a top-hat, a walking cane and a folded coat over his arm, standing on a pile of five books one of which is a vocabulary of the Italian Language by Fanfani, Florence and the other a philosophical treatise. Circa 1890.

Footnote: Flights of fancy have inspired artists and craftsmen alike from the earliest times. Bruce M Newman in his book ‘Fantasy Furniture’, New York, 1989, explores many of these themes including a pair of jester torchères (p51) and a further pair (p25) showing the Devil and his ‘wife’ as elegantly dressed satyrs which have some similarities to this piece.
Pietro Fanfani (21 April 1815, Pistoia, Italy – 4 March 1879, Florence) was an Italian philologist, humourist and novelist. He studied medicine, but gave his attention chiefly to philology. In 1859 he became director of the famous Florentine Library the ‘Biblioteca Marucelliana’.

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