Friday, February 13, 2009

Black Forest Figurenuhren & The Rat Eater

This next piece has only been in our collection for a very short time... but carries with it Provenance, that goes back to the collection of the late Charles Terwilliger in the 1960's... and many publications throughout the past half century. It is one of our favorites and quite possibly one of the rarest in the collection. In fact is currently the only known example worldwide. While mechanically identical to a dumpling eater or Knodelfresser (also in the collection), like most things the small details and variations make all the difference.

We call it the Rat Eater.

Seated on top of the clock is a carved and painted wood figure of a French soldier. In his arms he holds a plate of Rats. Every 5 minutes or on demand he "eats" 3 rodents!

There is automation to the eyes, mouth, arm holding the fork, as well as rat that is passed through his mouth and chewed.

To fully appreciate this piece we recommend watching the video we have loaded for your viewing pleasure.

It should be noted that the Germans frequently used automa to mock other cultures. This can be seen in many different pieces (Turks, Indians, Russians), and nothing can dispute the long tension between Germans and the French... and what can be more insulting than eating rats!

While research is still underway on this piece, it is believed that the figure is actually a Napoleon Soldier, possibly Napoleon Bonaparte himself... there are several documented cases in history where he encountered plagues of rats. And during sieges it was common for his soldiers to eat them to stay alive.

On the top of the figures hat is a gilt crowned eagle a common symbol used in the Napoleon Era in France. Although this clock was made C 1870 years after the Napoleon era... the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870's may have rekindled some of the previous passions (and there are also several documented cases were people were forced to eat rats. during the Franco-Prussian war...see scan of Rat peddler painted in 1870)

Below I will post several photos and scans of information and documents on the subject that were posted on the NAWCC message board in early 2009 discussing this piece.

This very special clock has been documented in Books and publications (3) during the past 30 years (Most notable is Black Forest Clocks by Rick Ortenburger) ...and also displayed in a National Convention in 1986 dedicated to Black Forest Clocks.

I hope you enjoy this piece.

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