March 25, 2020


An Unusual Full-Bodied Primitive Cockerel Weathervane.

We believe it can be both important and rewarding to spend a little extra time examining the features and qualities that make certain pieces more significant, appealing and collectable.

The best weathervanes somehow encapsulate the raw sculptural qualities and explore the unbridled spirit of Folk Art which is so cherished by specialists and collectors.

Wind direction was very relevant and informative for sailors, agricultural workers and the rural population, so function was the primary purpose of weathervanes. However, they also offered both skilled artisans and entirely untrained makers great scope to explore form, scale and material, to create works of individual character and style.

The only “given” is that the front or “point” end of the vane needs to be both shorter and heavier than the “sail” or tail end (which needs to be more extensive and broad). These design qualities ensure that any weathervane will always face directly into the prevailing wind, whether in the form of a stylised banner, a fox, a ship, a cockerel or whatever.

This example is “full bodied” rather than being a simple silhouette. Generally, full bodied examples are more sought after and celebrated by educated collectors, predominantly because they tend to have an inherently more interesting sculptural quality. 

This example is French in origin, where “Le Coq” is a significant national motif which is frequently depicted in French Folk Art, where zinc is also used more commonly than in the UK. But the really exciting and celebrated qualities are most usuall evident in idiosyncratic forms and naturally weathered surfaces. 

The current example is immediately recognisable as a stylised depiction of a cockerel and the economic lines and reductive form have a curiously contemporary appeal about them. The rounded head with sharply defined beak and simple convex “button” eyes, above the gracious downward curve of the breast, and the upwardly curving tail, create a satisfying, unfussy and well balanced form. 

It is fashioned from eight separate sheets of metal; two pieces making up the head, two for the body and two for the tail, with one further narrow tapering strip enclosing the top of the tail and one piece of silhouette cut tin to make the stylised “comb". This is the magical touch.

Being made from tin, which has a naturally ferrous quality, the comb has weathered and oxidised for over 150 years, creating a wonderful fortuitous pattern of rust residue over the top of the cockerel’s head. This runs around the beak, down the front, the backside of the neck and the top of the back, before spreading out over the breast.

The delightfully sensitive and entirely natural quality of this finish, juxtaposed as it is with the soft mottled leaden grey colour of the weathered and oxidised zinc, conjures a special kind of alchemy, which is immediately recognisable to collectors and virtually impossible to imitate, enhancing the form and pleasing the eye. Man cannot create this as well, as subtly or satisfyingly as nature does.  

This uniquely hand crafted form is inventive, well drawn, and of good bold scale, together with its raw, untouched, naturally weathered and patinated surface are the qualities that make it special and desirable.

It’s as simple as that....


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