Folk trace on Mehoffer’s painting
Could the toy that is seen in the background on the portrait of Józef Mehoffer’s wife have been manufactured in one of the Myślenice workshops?
The picture was painted in 1904. It reflects the scene from the artist’s summer apartment in Zakopane. We can see the painter’s wife posing in the forefront, the elegant interior of one of the rooms in the background and the artist’s four-year-old son sitting at the table. Summoned to have a meal at the table, he had to leave his toys. Among them we can see one which is very similar to the cart pulled by horses presented in our portal. The motif of horses pulling a cart or a sleigh, as in the case of the toy painted by Mehoffer, was very common in folk toy manufacturing. It is still possible to see a child patiently pulling its first vehicle with a string fastened to the horse’s head. These toys for little children, subsequently replaced by mechanical vehicles and omnipotent superheroes, are identical to the one in Mehoffer’s painting from 1904 and to the toy from the museum in Myślenice, manufactured in the 1960s. They can even be found now, as they once again have become fashionable in their ecological design, however, much more expensive than traditional folk toys.
The horses pulling a sleigh in Mehoffer’s painting was probably purchased at one of the street markets held in Kraków or Zakopane and, apart from the wooden house interior design, they are the second element proving the fascination with folk culture by Polish modernists of the Young Poland movement. They do not come from the Myślenice region as it became popular more than a dozen years later, after World War I. But do they significantly differ from the toys presented by us and carved by Antoni Burkat in Osieczany in the 1960s?
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