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WHY THIS? Noah’s Ark

This month, “WHY THIS” had the opportunity to talk with Patricia, daughter of an English middle-class family, professional dancer, business school graduate, and executive at several major international companies. Patricia tells us about how she became a collector and why a few years ago she made a particular purchase.

Turning the corner at one of New York City’s prestigious antiques fairs, Patricia, a client of JLG Arts and Antiques came face to face with this beautiful hand-carved and painted antique Noah’s Ark, complete with Noah and his family and the animal pairs. Today, complete sets such as this often hold pride of place in the collections of serious students of American Folk Art. The Ark as a wooden toy originated in the Saxony region of present-day Germany in the 1700s. A century later, German immigrants to the United States carried the tradition with them to their new homes, particularly areas of Ohio and Southeastern  Pennsylvania from which this example most likely comes. 

Did you grow up surrounded by art and antiques?

“Not at all. My father was a doctor who set up a practice in a very poor section of South London. He and my mother lived practical, simple lives. Our home was comfortable; I’m sure that some of the furnishings were antique but they weren’t collected for that reason, and I wasn’t particularly aware of their history.”

When did your interest develop?

“It happened gradually. I trained as a professional dancer in England and so, in a general sense, I viewed the world through a creative lens. After moving to the United States, I received a business degree and was fortunate to enjoy a career which exposed me to cultures around the world. I began to buy antiques in the places I lived: for instance, two beautiful, paneled screens from Japan. And the many friends I made helped shape my taste and deepen my understanding of what makes objects special. But perhaps the most formative moment came when we welcomed two pre-teen Tanzanian children into our family. Watching them grow into typical young American men over the past 30 years, I began to collect African art and antiques to remind them of their dual heritage.”

So why This Noah’s Ark?

“I had never seen one before and it piqued my curiosity. The dealer offering the Noah’s Ark was very helpful, filling in the probable origin of the work, pointing out the charm and finesse of the carving and placing the Ark in the context of American Folk Art. A bit of quick research verified that, while not inexpensive, the asking price was reasonable for an example of this quality. So, I was satisfied as to authenticity, artisanship, and value. But in the final analysis, I bought Noah’s Ark, because I loved it, it belonged in my home, and I knew it would give me pleasure for years to come.”

JLG Arts and Antiques is grateful to Patricia for taking the time to speak with us about her collection and what she felt when she asked herself WHY THIS? Noah’s Ark.  Would you like to share a discovery that answered WHY THIS? for you?  If so, please let us know on our website’s Blog or Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you. And be sure to visit our Folk Arts and Quirks Collection.

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