Rabbit, Rabbit, everyone! The beginning of another month and the last of this year, 2015. Incredible how the year has flown and now we enter the thick of Holiday season and what better represents Christmas: the diverse Nutcrackers so beautifully designed by THASC artist Janice Peroni. When most of us think about the Nutcracker, we think about the novel “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” by E.T. Amadeus Hoffman. It was rewritten for children by French novelist Alexandre Dumas in 1851 and this lighter version became the basis of Tchaikovsky’s outstanding “Nutcracker Suite” which debuted as a ballet in 1892. This was a more optimistic story of a little girl named Clara who dreams of being rescued by the German nutcracker Prince who saves her from the evil Mouse King by killing the King and taking Clara to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy where they are crowned the rulers of the Land of Sweets. The Nutcracker wasn’t widely performed until the mid-twentieth century, when it became a distinctly American hit. It also helped that the ballet’s appeal as a story that has nothing to do with theology, or Baby Jesus, but the Christmas themes have to do with the festivities of the holiday.
According to German legend, it was a puppet maker who helped a farmer to crack walnuts on his tree by making a wooden puppet painted with bright colors and had strong jaws to crack the walnuts. According to the folklore, he was rewarded with his own workshop. It is said that nutcrackers bring good luck and protect the house. The origin of the nutcrackers comes from the Erzgebirge region of Germany starting in the 1700’s due to the metal depletion in mines and the over abundance of wood. It takes 130 steps to create this piece of art including cutting, shaping, hand-turning, automatic lathe, polishing and drilling, priming and spraying, carving and painting.
All the painting is done freehand and each color dries before the next is applied. The German nutcracker is a unique craft because they were designed after the ruling class and authoritative figures that existed throughout Europe and Germany for centuries. This was unusual because German nutcrackers represented the people’s dissatisfaction with the ruling class.
Military, King, and Police Nutcrackers
One wonders why they don’t have smiles on their face? The reason was because the people who made them put their everyday hardships into their creations: their hard lives, their bad working conditions and their poor pay. Common people enjoyed them because it reduced the rulers to nothing more than crackers of nuts than powerful officials with teeth-bearing grins. The most popular nutcrackers still remain in the form of kings and soldiers although today some represent the playful forms of the common man.
Collecting nutcrackers in the U.S. began in the early 1950’s, when soldiers who returned home from World War II brought these figures of protection to their families. For over 200 years, the Steinbach family has been producing these fine wooden figures. Herr Christian Steinbach was responsible for raising the nutcracker to a different level by introducing nutcrackers from different areas of the world. He also developed a limited edition of 3000 pieces of King Ludwig II, which greatly increased their value.
It should be mentioned that THASC artist Janice Peroni captures the “cycle of life” in her painting NUTCRACKERS, showing the nuts and their seeds falling to the ground, which will eventually grow into strong trees. These trees would nourish the woodcrafters for hundreds of years and ultimately pass their seeds on to the collectors of these extraordinarily designed wooden pieces for eternity.
Enjoy the season!