Call Us! 1-727-777-4206 Today!

Antique Early 1900s Possibly Carmel/Looff Hand Painted & Hand Carved Wooden Carousel Horse Head *SOLD*

Antique Early 1900s Possibly Carmel/Looff Hand Painted & Hand Carved Wooden Carousel Horse Head

We are going to preface this by saying, that we are not experts in carousel horses. We have done several hours of research using internet searches and a literal stack of books on carousel horses. The following is the information we were able to glean.

This is a beautiful carousel horse head made of solid wood. Typical authentic carousel horse figures have solid head and legs that are attached to a hollow body. Solid heads and legs were built separately and attached to the body, the solid head being carved before being attached to the body.  We can see on the neck stump that the place where it would attach to the hollow body has a hole for a pin to attach it and the stump was carved into the head.

We believe this to have been made between 1900 -1928 because of the style and that by the 1930s hand-carved wooden horses were phased out and carousel animals made out of aluminum and later fiberglass.

Ears on authentic carousel horses are realistic and well-proportioned to the head, as can be seen on this horse. Due to the horse’s ears sticking out the way they do this makes them more breakable and thusly wouldn’t have been ideal for the multiple teardown, setups, and storing for traveling carnivals, fairs, etc. Most traveling carousels had their ears laid back or protected by the mane or other carvings to protect them from breakage. Because of this, we believe this horse is from a permanently installed carousel, usually found in a large amusement park or boardwalk. There has been damage to our horse’s ears, but that is to be expected from being toted around and stored after its retirement from the carousel business. The left ear has been glued on with some glue dripping.

The romance side of a figure, the side that faces the public, is more elaborately decorated than the side toward the carousel. The side of the figure facing the carousel called the offside, is plainer than the side facing the public. We believe this to be an inside horse because its head is straightforward with no turn toward the public. We believe this to be from an American carousel as the romance side is on the right-hand side with the offside being just a tad less ornate which makes us think it was a middle horse on the inside of the carousel, possibly in a line of 3-4 horses.

The heads and necks of authentic carousel horses are almost always turned towards the public and away from the carousel. The manes (and this one is beautifully done on both sides with the right side being slightly more involved) of authentic carousel horses are almost always carved away from the carousel side and towards the public. Authentic carousel horse manes are primarily carved in one direction also facing toward the public and the hair of the manes are carved in realistic naturally flowing swirls. The manes of old horses are generally carved in soft flowing lines where a few wisps of hair might end up on the offside but the mane as a whole virtually always falls on the side away from the carousel and towards the public.

Antique carousel figures can have both carved and painted eyes or realistic glass eyes. The eyes and their socket are proportioned to the head and generally contribute to a figure’s “expression”. Their lifelike muzzles with realistic lips, teeth, nostrils, and tongue are all correctly proportioned to the size of the head. The teeth vary in size as they do in a real horse. All carving is smoothly finished. This horse has all of these earmarks with its eyes being carved with a beautiful expression and proportional to the rest of the horse.

Old carousel figures were hand painted with milk paints and lead-based enamels which produced bright true colors. True gold, silver, and copper leafing were used on some originals, particularly on large amusement park carousels like those at Coney Island.

Very few originals are signed or marked. Some companies used carved emblems or metal plates but most did not. We did not find any marks on this one.

As we stated before, we are not experts on carousel horses but we do believe this to be at the very least Carmel-like carving. In the beginning, Carmel used carved eyes and not glass as he would later use. Early in his career, he liked fancy carvings like the bridles we see on many of his other carvings but he wasn’t big on gems and glitter. Later when it became popular, Carmel would get into the Borelli-style horses and use glass eyes with all of the glitz and glamour people love to see on carousels. Carmel horses tend to have strong/robust more lifelike horse shapes and proportions with lifelike teeth, musculature, ears, etc. He was also known for his beautiful sweeping detailed manes. We also thought of Loof, which wasn’t hard to do considering most carvers of the time learned their carving skills from working for Looff. Charles Carmel carved for Charles Looff before he went out on his own so it stands to reason that he would pick up some similar carving traits along the way while working for the German master carver Looff. Carmel was another of the many carvers with factories in Brooklyn, New York.

This horse has cracks, coats of paint, and repairs that one would expect to see on a carousel horse that is about 100 years old or more. That being said, this is a beautiful piece, a real work of art that is beautiful in its imperfect way and still oozes that boardwalk carousel feel from every part of it.


Click here for Info: New Toy Auction January 12th and 13th, 2024 via Liveauctioneers!

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop