This is one of three wooden screens we have hanging in our living room. They are purdah screens (which is technically redundant, because the word purdah, from the Hindi and Urdu parda, literally means screen or veil) and were brought back from Afghanistan by my in-laws in the 1960s, when they moved back to the states.
Two of them are similar and this is the third, which is quite different, although they all share a few significant characteristics. They are tessellated screens, geometric designs, made of carved wood, and held together without any additional fasteners or glue. They are held together by the way the wood is cut and carved and fitted together like a puzzle. They are a little bit fragile and there are a few pieces missing in one of them. I’d love to figure out how to repair them, but I’m afraid of doing more damage.
Matryoshka Doll Set
This set of ten matryoshka dolls is another find from my mother-in-law’s house. Matryoshka dolls were first made in the late 19th century. This set is different in both shape and painted design from any set i’ve seen (although to be honest, I haven’t seen a huge number). Typically, except when depicting actually individuals, the outermost doll is female.
This set of ten nesting dolls range in size from about four inchest for the largest, outermost figure to about five-sixteenths of an inch for the smallest.
I didn’t have anything in particular to take a picture of today and didn’t get outside much, so I took this picture in our dining room. We’ve been moving things from both my mom’s house and Cathy’s mom’s house and adding things to what we already had. The photo in the center of this is a Winter & Pond photo titled “Lights o’ Juneau” On the left, the blue bowl filled with Easter Eggs is from Istalif, Iran. There are two sets of matryoshka or nesting dolls, one traditional (in the back and on the right) and one modern with (from largest to smallest) Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Leonid Brezhnev, Joseph Stalin, and Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (otherwise know as Lenin).
I posted a photo of a purdah screen back in 2015 (see Friday, November 20, 2015) but thought I’d share a detail of another one today. This is a fancier screen than was shown then and one of two that we have in our living room with the same pattern. These two are not in as good condition as the one shown in the photo from 2015, but I really love the patina of the old wood and the puzzle-like intricacy of the pieces making up the central design. As noted with the older photograph, the outer rails and stiles of these tessellated screens are held together with mortise and tenon joints but they are held together without any other fasteners or glue.
This little creche is made with bits and pieces from the kitchen. Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus are peanuts with Halos made from Cheerios. The magi—or maybe those are angels, it’s in some dispute—are made from Hershey’s kisses. The sheep are pumpkin seeds with broken toothpicks for legs. I’m not entirely sure what is in the foreground. Perhaps that’s food for the animals (and the baby didn’t fit in this manger so he’s next to it instead. The yarn person, which is perhaps a shepherd, is not to scale but is definitely part of the composition. The frog, however, is almost certainly apocryphal.
Pecking Chicken Toy
Today I’ afraid it’s going to be another “I have to find something to photograph” type day. At a little after 10:00 PM, I picked up my camera and starting looking around for things to photograph. Dorothy asked me to document the various pieces of the large nativity scene that’s set up on the piano and I did that, but I’ve posted a photo of that already, so I didn’t want to repeat it, even from a different angle. I photographed this little pecking chicken toy that’s been out since Cathy’s brother and nephew were here, so that’s what you get.
Peruvian Mountain Harp
Cathy’s grandmother lived in Peru for more than 20 years, running the guest house in Lima for the Summer Institute of Linguistics. She sent and brought home many things over the years, from birds, reptiles, and small mammals to arts and crafts. One thing she brought for Cathy was this Peruvian harp. The harp, in one form or another, has existed as an instrument for more than 5,000 years. They were introduced into South America by the Spanish in the 16th century and have integrated into Andean culture. The Peruvian or Andean harp has a fairly large soundboard.
This one is not in playable condition, due to a large crack in the neck. I’d be very nervous about tightening the strings enough that they could be played. There is also a long crack in the soundboard, between two pieces of wood. Whether or not it can be repaired adequately is an open question. We certainly don’t know. Dorothy asked her college piano teacher if he would be interested in having the harp and he said he would, so today it left with Dorothy for New England and its new home. I took a bunch of pictures of it before loading it in her van.
I was working in the garage this evening and had my camera with me, thinking I might find a few interesting things to photograph. We’ve still working our way through some boxes of things from my in-laws’ house and I ended up taking a few photos. This is a small bottle with some sand painting in it. It’s the smaller but nicer of two sand art bottles. The other one has sand that I believe came from Petra, although I’m not sure how you verify that. This one, as far as I know, is nothing special. That is to say, it’s pretty, but we have no idea who made it or where it came from. It’s certainly better than anything I could do but that’s not really saying much.
We don’t remember where this little Christmas ornament came from. Cathy thought it was made by the woman who cleaned her mom’s house for so many years but the things she made were more homespun. This is different. Just about as strange but different. It’s a Christmas caroler and it’s one we put out every year, but we don’t really know much else.
It’s a funny little thing but as one person commented on Instagram in reference to the Strange Little Ornament post (see Tuesday, December 01, 2020), our house “is a haven for strange little things.” I think perhaps she was including us in the “strange little thing” category, but I can’t be sure.
I’ll post a photo of a nativity scene that Margaret’s housekeeper did make in a few days. I think you’ll agree that they, along with this, qualifies as folk art.
A days ago I posted a picture of a somewhat odd, folk art Christmas carol singing figurine (see Friday, December 11, 2020). In that post I said that I’d post a photo of a nativity scene that Margaret’s housekeeper made for her quite a few years ago. Well, here it is. As you can see, most of the people in the scene are made from peanuts, although one is made differently to the rest. The sheep are made with pumpkin seeds and toothpicks. They look a little like pigs to me, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, because this is an scene in Bethlehem and pigs would be out of place. The angel (on the left) is a Hershey’s kiss.