Mannequin, France, ca. 1880, with pinewood salesman samples of an extension ladder and gate
Artists' models, the articulated figures found among the stocks of art supply merchants, date back several centuries. Ranging in size from under seven inches to larger than life-size, the earliest and finest examples are of South German origin from the early 16th century
Italian examples are also known. Minute and meticulous attention was paid to every articulation of these exquisite, earliest boxwood examples of male and female figures. Engineered with an ingenious system of gut bands, they were not suitable for rigorous use in artist studios and were likely made for display in Kunstkammer collections, reflecting the interest in the human body during the Renaissance. Artist mannequins, or lay figures, became more androgynous from the 18th into the 19th century, by which time they were constructed in pine, linden or walnut with wooden pegs and ball joints. Reaching their peak of manufacture and popularity in France circa 1850, ownership was coveted. "Mannequin Articulé" would be listed in the inventory of important artists' possessions at that time. Keenly sought after by collectors, desirability and rarity is defined by size, quality, condition, antiquity and, particularly, the deftness of the carving.
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