Wooden Nutcracker in Form of Violinist, 18th Century
Antique hand-carved screw-type nutcracker in the form of an expressive man in a skull cap and with long hair holding a violin, dating from the late 18th C. or earlier. The present nutcracker remains functional, and works by inserting the nut into an opening in the man's back and rotating his upper body, causing a carved wooden screw mounted to his lower torso to press into the shell. Substantial losses to base, lower half of the face, right hand, and left edge of the instrument, else good. 8 inches tall (20.3 cm.).
Nutcrackers have existed in some form or another for milenia, with "excavations of early civilizations [revealing] nutshells that were probably broken by stones... Pitted stones used for cracking nuts have been found in various parts of the United States and Europe and have been dated back to the Archaic Period, 4,000 to 8,000 years ago... Lever nutcrackers [date back] to the 13th century," and "by the 15th and 16th century, wood carvers in France and England were creating beautiful wooden nutcrackers" similar to those found today. "Screw nutcrackers [appeared in] the 17th century and at first these were simple in structure. However, it was not long before artisans were carving and shaping intricate designs... Standing wooden nutcrackers in the form of soldiers and kings [appeared in] Germany by 1800, and in 1830 the term 'Nussknacker' appeared in the dictionary of the Brothers Grimm... In 1872 Wilhelm Fuchtner, known as the father of the nutcracker, made the first commercial production." (The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum)