Pressed from dough
Spielzeug und Weihnachtsfiguren aus dem Erzgebirge
Toys and Christmas figures from the Erzgebirge from the Claus Leichsenring collection are presented. The so-called mass-produced figures, which were created over a period of about 150 years, were primarily made of papier-mâché.
The use of mouldable mass can be traced back to the end of the 18th century for Schneeberg and Annaberg in the manufacture of dolls. Since 1818, the factory in Scheibenberg has been producing realistically modelled and painted animals from papier-mâché. In the oldest toy pattern book of the Erzgebirge (around 1850), a large number of mass figures can be found in addition to turned and carved toys. The material used was mostly papier-mâché, with each manufacturer using his own recipe. Essential ingredients were paper pulp, flour and bone glue, further additives also chalk, clay or fine sawdust. The well kneaded mass was pressed into two-part moulds made of wood, metal, sulphur or plaster. After drying, the press seams were plastered, protruding parts like arms were added and the figures were painted.
Especially the Christmas custom, which became more and more widespread in the second half of the 19th century, the crafting and erection of Christmas mountains and pyramids, led to an increasing demand for suitable figures. In doing so, figures pressed from mass offered a cheap alternative to the elaborately carved figures. In Annaberg Friedrich Hermann Lahl (1864) and Max Grummt (1879) founded companies for the production of play and Christmas figures made of papier-mâché. They offered a wide range of pets and exotic animals, hunters and hunting animals, village and town figures, mountain lifts and nativity figures. Around 1900 a large number of dwarfs were added. The use of dough to decorate turned figures was also common. Arms, feet, details of clothing or accessories were added with it, sometimes faces were made from dough.
Today there are more than twenty mass figure manufacturers, mostly family businesses, for the Saxon Ore Mountains. The Second World War brought toy production to a standstill. In the following years, most manufacturers stopped the production of the dough figures due to age or for economic reasons. Much knowledge about this branch of Erzgebirge handicraft was lost. Since the year 2000, figures have been produced again in Mildenau with the preserved moulds from Lahl using the traditional technique.