D1576. Pair of Petit Feu Small Figures of Cows
Delft, circa 1760
Each with an iron-red-spotted white hide, a black forelock, tail, eyes and hooves, an iron-red muzzle and ears and yellow horns, wearing garlands of iron-red, blue and yellow flowers and green leaves around her neck and back, and modeled affronté, standing on the green top of a flaring rectangular base with iron-red, blue and yellow C-striped sides.
Length: 10.2 cm. (4 in.)
In the seventeenth century, the Butcher’s Guild in Holland developed an annual tradition that on the day of its patron saint (St. Luke, symbolized by the apocalyptic winged ox), it would hold a parade to celebrate the guild’s best-bred bull or cow. The beast would be decorated with floral garlands and ribbons, the horns often gilded and sometimes tipped with oranges, and the festive procession with banners flying was led by musicians: drummers and pipers, followed by the guild members and the townspeople singing and dancing. Later the animal would be butchered and the meat served at the guild dinner, a portion of it being donated to the church and the local poor. From this tradition emerged the saying, “The guild ox is on parade”, which became synonymous with “this is a real feast!’A century later, the Delftware cows continued the image of that tradition, with their necks and backs garlanded with flowers.
- One horn repaired