American Furniture, Decorative Art & Folk Art

The Old-Fashioned Fun of Americana

By Halina Loft
A New Dimension of Tradition: Important American Folk Art, Proceeds of the Sale to Benefit a New Folk Art Initiative at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston features a fine collection of objects designed to entertain – including a number of superb board games, rocking horses and carved toys. The auction will be held on 25 January at 2:30 PM in New York.

T he American art folk tradition is nothing if not a little fun. For generations, self-taught artists and craftsmen produced marvelous toys and elaborate board games – and in turn, these objects sparked joy for Americans, young and old alike. Sotheby's upcoming Americana Week auctions feature a number of these fine, fun objects, each replete with the spirit of American fun. Below, we brought together a selection of joyful objects for you to explore.

Check and Mate

A combination backgammon and checkerboard hinged box playing set from the late 19th to early 20th century shines with polychrome paint – as does the unusual, multicolored pine checker gameboard from New England, dating from the third quarter of the 19th century. The third gameboard is very rare: dating from the mid-19th century, the green and black painted wooden gameboard features a numerical snake motif on one side, and a checkerboard on the other. The side with the black snake was possibly used to play "the Game of the Goose."

Sharp Shooter

D ating from circa 1930, this sheet-iron shooting gallery cowboy target was found in Texas. The target still shines with polychrome paint – and though there's paint loss from bullets and rust commensurate with age and use, the target exhibits no evidence of bent metal or soldering repairs. Yehaw, indeed.

To the target's left stands a pine chest of drawers from the 19th century, with front painted sans traverse depicting a colonial mansion with trees and hills, and twelve figures playing croquet; the painting decoration dates from the 20th century.


A top the pine chest are a collection of turned and stained maple simulated fruit, which date to circa 1840 and were probably made in Maine (the fruit comes fit in a carved walnut bowl). Above, a majestic painted and carved oak and horsehair child's rocking horse from circa 1900 looks ready to ride into the sunset.

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