Fantasy: When Fruits and Veggies Act like You And Me! – The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles – January 2012
By Pamela E. Apkarian-Russell, The Halloween Queen®
Dreams of gossamer winged fairies, Ogres, pixies, the wee people, and anthropomorphic beings are as inventive as those who believe in them and welcome them into their lives. For centuries these creatures have been written about and portrayed in art. Why? Not only because they are charming and touch the child in us but because they are a whimsical part of us that either believes or wants to believe they exist. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle certainly believed in fairies and no decent Irishman would dare deny that Leprechauns still roam the Emerald Isle. Some might think the local ferule cats drink the milk left out for the Brownies and Fairies but others know better. Anthropomorphic veggies and fruits have been a focal part of folk lore and literature for centuries. The Victorian and Edwardian ages embraced it with a passion which led to a prolific revival containing some of the best art work produced by important artists as well as less remembered ones.
Children’s books, books for adults, cards, advertising, as well as china and pottery showed the wonderful world we could believe in. J.M. Barrie’s [amazon_link id=”146371789X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Peter Pan[/amazon_link] asked you to shout out loud “I do believe in fairies” which was to believe in the magic of yourself to do wonderful things like save Tinkerbelle from the poison she drank to save Peter Pan from drinking it.
One of the companies that utilized this kind of art was Au Bon Marche of Paris, France.
A 12 card set produced for the Paris Exposition of 1900 showed their mammoth building and the busy street outside on the reverse of the card. However, in full color, Typogravure Goupil, the store that promised you the most remarkable curiosities in Paris showed you a remarkable array of fruit interacting just as humans would. True integration is when cherry men courted strawberry women, pineapple men wooed pomegranate ladies, and apple mademoiselle danced with Monsieur la prune. The bodies were human but the features were on pears, oranges, figs, apples, etc. These cards were quite large at five by seven. A complete set will sell for $600. Regular sized advertising cards, which were given away at stores such as the Morris Hardware Co. and were produced for the fair of 1888 are less artistically refined but in their way just as fanciful. They only sell for $15-20 each and were produced by Richmond & Co. of Buffalo, New York who were known for their lithography. With the popularity of the post card, trade cards faded away and advertising was posted rather than distributed in the stores or in other formats such as blotters etc.
Daimler was one of the early car manufacturers. The car was not as important as the owner or driver of the car who sported this new invention and mark of prestige. Here he stands in his goggles and duster being grand as he chats up Mademoiselle carrot. “Silence Gives Consent,” Miss Poppet, (she is the mushroom spinster looking lady in the background) spitefully: “There now! He’s in love with that New Miss Daimler, and she hasn’t a word to say for herself, but I’ve heard she’s a fast little cat. These quiet ones are always like that.” How can any man help but flirt with a quiet purr and an elegant coiffeur? Alick PF Richie is the artist on this $300 advertising postcard.
The National Apple Show in 1910 showed the entire apple family including the Crabbs, who were on their way to Spokane, Washington over November 14-19 for the third National Apple show, or over November 28th-December 4th in Chicago. These events were well attended and important to not just the local communities but those that could easily reach the destination via train, buggy, etc. Gone are the days when apples were picked and sold without transporting them. Advertising postcards are very popular and this one is worth $45.
A late English comic card has always amused for its innocent risqué “And what are you doing in my bed?” Even though they are strawberries the Hayes Commission would not have sanctioned the like of these two immoral fruit. Value $8.
The German sense of humor is different from the English or Americans and one can observe it in the Teutonic depiction of their veggies. They are much more earthy and do not even think of being cute or saucy. After all their sole purpose in life is to eat drink and be merry so that they can be eaten by the drinking and the merry! The Gruss (greetings from) Rubiland were the type of ground vegetable that were popular before genetically altered became the vogue and looks became more important than taste and nutrition. These cards range in the $45-95 range. The Germans loved integrating their persona into their cuisine. Bratwurst and pretzels and beer, to the heart of the German they were so near and dear, valued at $35 each.
The French love April Fool’s Day and always gave out smelly fish on that day. Looking at this Pear Lady is rather frightening for me as PEAR is my initials! It makes me want to go on a diet every time I look at it! $35 for this sour puss!
The Truffle Lady, though homely reminds every gourmet that she may be homely but very delicious. Peasant clothing does not make her any less tasty. $50. The motoring mushrooms might be courted and adored by those who cannot afford a trifle like a truffle but the cards are tasty to the eye and only cost $20. Neither price is by the pound.
American humor art, wether caricature or not has always been simpler and cute. In 1907 A.B. Woodward publishing did quite a bit of this type of card, many by Agust Hutaf who was quite prolific. One is always happier to meet and eat the happy Baldwin twins than to greet the not so sweet miss sour apple or one may be forced to take a melon-choly stand! $15-20 each.
The Tuck Publishing postcard is typical of the English tongue in cheek- drollery. Her Melon-choly Stand! “Mr. Pumpkin! Your bride I can never be: Unless you stop saying all those squashy things to me.” A rather strange statement to send to one’s Valentine. $15. The American pre-1900 New Year card by Hildersheimer has more of the romantic about it (You just cannot Beet Adam’s manners, said Eve Berry. $12. The earlier pre-1920 items are usually the cream but every now and then contemporary cards such as those done by Camden Graphics in 1982 using the work of G.S. Studdy are so charming. Yes, they are chrome cards not lithography but the color and the art work are spot on. The accompanying captions are witty as well. Fruity Fables $5 each. Studdy was best known for his Bonzo the dog.
The tradition of Giuseppe Arcimboldo lives on in many forms though greatly simplified. For example, the Victory Garden posters from WW I were a reminder to all Americans how important gardens were and self sufficiency was important. To grow one’s own food, even as a small supplement was patriotic and insured you got the best and freshest even your small plot of land could grow. The White House from the time of Abagail Adams always had one until recent times and it is comforting to know it is alive and growing once again.
Items made in materials other than paper can be just as exciting if not more so. Novelty items, especially salt and pepper shakers are available at just about any show or shop. However, fine quality items that were made by top name manufacturers are scarce. Fairies, gnomes, veggie people etc. can be found in books and on plates and are a charming addition to adult décor and for children’s rooms. Kitchens are particularly favored by these creatures and rumor has it that they are quite happy to get saucy with the sauce and sausage. Everyone knows magical creatures are incredibly savory in the kitchen. Now where ever did that pineapple condiment set run off to?
* All items are either from Chris Russell & The Halloween Queen Antiques in WV or the personal collection of the author.
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