Friday, February 21, 2014

Children with rattles & teething toys from 1500s Europe to 1700s America

 1520 Claude of France (1499-1524) Portrait of Madeleine of France (1520-1537) 3rd Daughter of Francois I and Claude of France.

Rattles appear early on both sides of the Atlantic.  They were found in pre-Columbian America, in Pharaoh's Egypt, in China, & in the Hittite kingdom of Asia Minor. During the earliest civilizations rattles consisted of a dried fruit whose seeds sounded like little bells when shaken. The oldest surviving examples, which are made of earthenware & bronze, are in the shape of a gourd or pomegranate.

 1538 Hans Holbein the Younger (1498–1543) Portrait of Prince Edward, later King Edward VI of England. Detail.  Here Holbein took care to clarify the regal heritage of his subject, when he portrayed Edward, only son of King Henry VIII of England.  Holbein captures the face of early childhood brilliantly. Edward was, in fact, 2 when this portrait was completed. Holbein expresses his infancy – his baby face, his baby hands, while having him stand dressed like his father holding out a majestic, ruler's hand, while the other hand holds his baby rattle.  At the bottom of this painting is an inscription praising the paternal glory of his father Henry VIII.

Parents, royal & common, used the rattle to distract the young child & calm it, especially when the toddler began teething.  Many believed that the rattle also had exorcising & protective powers as well. Some believed that it could help avert calamity & help dispel evil & protect the child from illness & adversity.  In an age of high infant mortality, some saw the rattle as an amulet for a long & happy life.  Actually, toy rattles did help children improve hand-eye coordination by stimulating their senses.  Infants like the sounds they are hearing &, with their eyes, try to follow the path of the rattle as it is shaken back & forth.

 1581 Unknown artist, Cornelia Burch, age two months, in swaddling clothes holding a rattle.

Rattle-makers used materials like coral, rock-crystal & wolf's tooth not only because of their beauty, but also because of the supernatural powers attributed to these pricey materials. Wolf‘s tooth symbolized power. It was supposed to transfer power from the animal to the child & in that way protect it against danger. Many had traditionally considered coral as a defense against evil.  Others believed that while rock-crystal could soothe childhood wounds.

 1590s Adriaen van der Linde (Dutch artist, 1560-1609) Portrait of a Young Girl

The rattles in many of these paintings are made of silver or gold & have a handle made of red coral, rock-crystal or wolf's tooth. These sorts of rattles began to appear in children's portraits at the beginning of the 16C.  Rattle-makers later added whistles or little bells to distract the toddler. Many believed that these tinkling additions could also dispel evil spirits.

 1591 Lorenz Strauch (1554-1636), portrait of Margarete Fesserin 1591

Simple rattles evolved into toys made of rare gold & silver.  Silver & goldsmiths produced elaborate chased & repoussé ornaments often consisting of a whistle, a piece of teething coral, several bells, & a loop to allow it to be hung on a ribbon around the child's neck.  In addition to being a teething device, the coral made it a token to ward off enchantment & disease.

 1595 Christening Portrait of Mother & Child English School

Not everyone supported the use of these expensive rattles.  In his book Emile ou de l'éducation (1762), the 18C French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau criticized expensive rattles, because they could make the child accustomed to opulence at a very young age. Rousseau declared that a twig, a stick of liqorice, or a poppy head was equally effective, when it comes to distracting or entertaining a child.

 1600 Jan Claesz., Girl with a Rattle

 1600s Diego Velazquez (Spanish artist, 1599 – 1660) Infante Felipe Prospero

 1600s Unknown Dutch artist, Portrait of a Girl

 1600s Wybrand Simonsz. de Geest (Dutch artist, 1592-c 1661) Portrait of a Child

 1610 Santiago Morán. The Infanta Margarita Francisca, daughter of Philip III

 1611 Paul van Somer, Portrait of a Boy with a Rattle

 1620 Unknown, Flemish School, Portrait of a boy

 1630 Anonymous, Portrait of the two-year-old twins Gerdrugt and Conradus Kuve

 1630s Attributed to the Studio of Adriaen Hanneman (c.1601-1671) Portrait of King Charles II

 1640s Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (Dutch artist, 1594 – 1650) Girl with a rattle

 1650 Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (Dutch artist, 1594 – 1650) Two Children

 1660 Jan Albertsz. Rotius Boy with a Dog

 1680 Unknown Polish artist, Portrait of Stanislaw Boguslaw Leszczyński 1677–1766

 1700s Joseph Highmore (English artist,  1692-1780) Portrait of a child, traditionally identified as Anne Strodein white dress and bonnet, holding a rattle in her left hand

 1751 Jean-Marc Nattier (French artist, 1685-1766) Portrait of Madame Maria Zeffirina

 1751 John Wollaston (American colonial era painter, 1710-1775) Family Group  This is one of the earliest portraits in colonial America to reflect new attitudes toward women & children. The fact that the wife sits on the sofa at the same level as the husband indicates the period’s increasing recognition that women shared authority with their husbands in the household. The child holding the rattle shows that children were now encouraged to play, rather than be small adults.

 1753-54 John Wollaston (American colonial era painter, 1710-1775) Mrs Daniel Carroll II (1710-1775) & Daniel Carroll (1752-1790)

 1755 Joseph Blackburn (American colonial era artist, fl 1753-1763). Isaac Winslow and His Family  Joseph Blackburn presented Isaac Winslow in a cross-legged pose of studied nonchalance as the proud paterfamilias, deferring to his wife, Lucy Waldo Winslow, & family. His wife mother holds a coral-and-bells teething toy for Hannah, one of the livelier babies depicted in pre-Revolutionary painting, who sits on her lap. Hannah ignores the teething rattle & reaches intently for the fruit held by her sister, Lucy.

 1762 William Johnston (1732–1772)  Mrs Jacob Hurd and Child

 1773 Matthew Pratt (1734-1805). Elizabeth Gay (Mrs. Thomas Bolling) with twins Sarah & Ann.

 1776 John Singleton Copley (American-born artist, 1738-1815). The Copley Family. detail

 1776 John Singleton Copley (American-born artist, 1738-1815). The Copley Family  Here Copley portrayed himself turning away from a sheaf of his sketches to look at the spectator. His wife, Susanna, leans forward to hug their 4-year-old son, John Junior. The baby, Susanna, tries to attract her grandfather's attention with a rattle.

 1790 Charles Willson Peale (American artist, 1741-1827) Sarah Cantwell Jones (Mrs. Robert Milligan) and Child.

 1790s William Jennys (American artist, 1774-1858) Mary Grove (Mrs. Cephas Smith Jr & Child)  William Jennys, painted Mrs Smith seated in a chair, holding an infant in her lap. The infant holds a coral & bells, an expensive yet essential item of child-rearing equipment. The sparkling silver bells amused the baby, while the coral, most parents of the period believed, guarded against disease. In the 18C, teething was considered as dangerous as diphtheria. Biting on coral would ease the discomfort of teething. Coral was also believed to have those ancient talismanic powers, warding off ailments & dangers. In early America, just as it had been for centuries in Europe, the rattle was thus not just a toy but a device to protect children & promote their development.

 1796 Ralph Earl (1751-1801) Mrs Elijah Boardman and Son

1 comment:

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