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Summary of Sleigh
One of several European Sleighs in the Tyrwhitt- Drake collection. This one has a lion and a maiden at its prow.
This type of Sleigh was particularly popular in Germany where they were used for parades and races by the wealthy. They were considered an art form and their owners would attempt to outdo each other in their design and presentation. The person of the highest social standing would invite the prettiest lady as a passenger. She would sit in the upholstered seat whilst he would drive the horse from the pillion seat at the back at break neck speed.
Elaborately carved with mystical beasts, flora and fauna or biblical themes and brightly painted, these Sleighs were an art form. The harness on the horses was equally as elaborate with collars mounted with full size antlers, leather faced with velvet and lots and lots ofbells.
Height: 4ft 4 ¼”
Length: 7ft 2 1/2"
Width: 3ft ½”
There are several very good examples of Continental Sleighs in the Tyrwhitt-Drake collection and this is one of the most highly decorated and amusing.
On the prow is a fabulous carving of a maiden and a lion. The creator of this Sleigh really needed a lesson in anatomy as the poor maiden is rather out of proportion. She is scantily clad and sits on the back of a wonderful lion who has the most comical of faces, sticking his tongue out at the maiden. The figures stand upon scrolls and acanthus leaves which continue down the runners.
The body of the Sleigh has four carved legs attaching it to the runners. Each leg is carved with rococo scrolls. The scrolls continue around the top edge of the seat interspersed at the back with a male mask and acanthus leaves at the front. There is a very elaborately carved swingle tree attached to the front of the Sleigh.
At the backis a pillion seat for the owner to sit and drive the horse from. The seat is upholsteredin a red fabric and embellished with a two tone fringe around the edge. Beneaththe seat is a footboard with an asymmetrical rococo design. An iron bracket withscrolls supports the seat.
With the exception of the floor all of the interior is covered with the same red fabric is the pillion seat. It has been applied flush to the wood work and padded out. The sides have been sewn in a way to create a circular pattern in the padding. The seat drop is in the same material.
There are traces of gilding all over the Sleigh giving a glimmer of its former colour.
This Sleigh has no inscriptions.
Structurally this Sleigh appears sound. The fabric on the seat has faded and would benefit from a conservation clean. Most of the paintwork is missing and the remaining gilt work should be assessed for its stability.
This Sleigh is in the care of the Tyrwhitt-Drake Carriage Museum
Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery
St Faith's Street,
Maidstone Museum and Bentliff Art Gallery / Amy Bracey / Robert Lovell