This pair of marvelous antique English characters are likely advertising trade figures or display figures used to promote a shop. One is a Coachman and the other is a Groom. The statues are made of wood, hand carved with a polychrome or painted finish. Each of the figures are extremely well carved and stylistically capture all the details of a real Coachman and Groom from the period.
Both figures have very expressive faces with caricature style features giving them a slightly humorous appearance. Their large eyes, nose and mouths add to the distinctive character of each face. Even the hair and bushy eyebrows seem slightly exaggerated.
They are well dressed in typical 18th century English clothing for their service. The waistcoats with wide lapels and large cuffs are adorned with ball shaped gold buttons with black buttonhole trim. Each are wearing a red vest with a patterned neck handkerchief. The Colonial knee-length breeches and long stockings with garters, cover the legs. They’re fashionable low heeled shoes each have large square silver buckles. Keep in mind all of this detail is carved wood!
The Coachman has the appearance of a John Bull style character, which he was likely modeled after. He wears the typical Coachman hat and has his driving whip in hand, which is also made of wood. The Groom is wearing a ribbed wool Monmouth cap in orange and holding a thick rope with iron clips, again all wood. The braided rope is very well carved and the ironwork even looks hand wrought.
Each figure is mounted on a low plinth base made of solid wood. The bases have the appearance of old wooden barrel tops, but in fact are carved to look like that. They are actually carved from tree trunks, which can be seen on the underside of the bases. The maker, age and history of these figures are unknown. They appear to be one-of-a-kind and were likely created for advertising a trade or as shop display figures. These types of figures were used in pubs, hotels and retail establishments. For the last 20 years they have been in a private collection.
If you’re a fan of antique trade and advertising figures like cigar store Indians and other Tobacconist’s figures, you need to take a look at these. Its not often you find British folk art figures this size, especially in the United States.
PERIOD: Late 19th – Early 20th Century
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United Kingdom
MAKER: Unknown Carver
MATERIALS: Carved wood figure with polychrome / paint finish.
GENERAL CONDITION: Overall, both figures are structurally sound and in very good condition. They do show signs of various small repairs, repaint and touch up from previous years. Some minor areas have gesso visible. There are paint chips and losses, scratches, dings, dents, cracks and age separations, all typical for this type of item, its age and use.
HEIGHT: 54 in. (137 cm)
WIDTH: 23 in. (58 cm)
DEPTH: 21 in. (53 cm)
CONDITION: The hat appears to have been repainted several times. The hat brim may not be original or maybe repaired many years ago. Minor paint loss under his chin. Slight wood separation due to age, around the left coat pocket. The whip has been repaired where the curved portion joins the handle. The right hand appears to have been repaired. The tree trunk base has a natural age separation.
HEIGHT: 54 in. (137 cm)
WIDTH: 20.5 in. (52 cm)
DEPTH: 25 in. (64 cm)
CONDITION: The cap appears to have had a minor repair and repaint. Minor paint loss under his chin. Slight wood separation due to age, around the left hand and cuff. Small separation of a sectioned rope joint with paint loss. The tree trunk base has a natural age separation crack along with some others around the edge of the top band in back.