I have what I
believe to be a very old mermaid.
I would like
your help in identifying any info on age, maker, value and
possible contacts of interested buyers.
It was my
Grandpa's. He had it in a box in the back of an old
shed. He always told me stories about it when I was
little. I cleaned out the shed last year and found it.
The mermaid you have dates
back to the late 1800's to early 1900's.
These originally came from
the Orient (mostly China) where they were once actually
made in factories.
The under structure of
these is lightweight carved wood. The front half is
covered in a "skin" made from brown tissue paper. Real
fish teeth were added to the mouth, and sometimes real
claws to the hands. The back end is a real fish skin,
stretched and dried over the tail section, with the fins
inserted later. Sometimes animal hair was added to their
heads, hands, and spinal regions.
Their original purpose were
actually as good luck talismans, which were supposed to
insure farmers good crops. I have never really understood
the correlation, but there it is nonetheless.
These never became sideshow
attractions until European sailors got hold of them and
brought them back home. Many ended up in private
Wunderkammers, or Cabinets of Curiosity, the most famous
being the one which P.T. Barnum leased and put on exhibit
as the infamous FeeJee Island Mermaid.
There were many of these
made, most of which still survive today.
However, many have damage
to them due to the age and brittleness of the
genuine fish parts used. The front halves are always in
far better shape than the backs, consequently.
It is hard to put a real
value on this, as that is determined by the person
purchasing and how badly they want it, or not. The
audience for these is somewhat limited however, especially
in this particular condition.
provided by Mark Frierson
I hope the
information is helpful.
John Robinson Sideshow
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