by Douglas Clarkson,
Elements of design of the famous ‘Carrousel des Temps Modernes’ in Troyes, Northern France are described with also reference to the history of carousels. Carousels are an indication of culture and tradition, where the design of the carousel reflects unique aspects of national identity. An example of this was observed in the northern town of Troyes, celebrated for its noted architecture and vibrant history including links with Joan of Arc. The theme of the carousel in the main square is identified as ‘Carrousel des Temps Modernes’ with noted descriptions of Gustav Eifel, the Montgolfier brothers and Jules Verne. This is a depiction of the contribution of France in moving forward the modern world before the chaos and disaster of the first World War.
There are ancient as well as modern cultural links in its design. Within the carousel we see ‘Nautilus’ the creation of Jules Verne in ‘20000 Leagues Under the Sea’. The ‘red rocket’ so tastefully depicted is no doubt also linked to the creative mind of Jules Verne. In Jules Verne’s novel, ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ space travel was described in the form of a ‘moon gun’ which was used to project a space vehicle from the Florida peninsula the moon and with recovery via a splash landing. Apparently far fetched, this technology is still being considered as a viable means of launching payloads into earth orbit.
The animals have distinctive names – ‘Antares the horse’, ’Crin Blanc the horse’, ’Loulou the donkey’, ‘Nenette the giraffe’, ‘Simba the lion’ and ‘Zeus the bull’. Any child today would want one of these. The figures appear constructed from glass fibre rather than wood. In Greek mythology, Zeus in the form of a white bull is associated with the abduction of Europa. Antares is a supergiant red star which is identified in ancient cultures including that of Ancient Egypt. In the novel of Ben-Hur, the names of the Arabian chariot horses driven by Ben Hur were Altair, Aldebaran , Antares, and Rigel. Crin Blac (White Mane) was the title of a short film directed by Albert Lamorisse in 1953 which describes the ability of a young boy to tame a wild horse in the Camargue region of France. The film won numerous awards including that of Palme d’Or Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Various place names are depicted on a top set of images and include Chalons-sur-Marne and Courtisols.
History of Carousels
There is a belief that carousels in some form date back to antiquity. In the 1600’s carousel like structures were used in France as a training device to develop horsemanship. The object of the training was to hold a lance that had to target a metal ring while the make believe horse was presumably in ‘circular’ and ‘up and down’ motion. Carousels as we know them today as items of entertainment began to appear in the 1700’s. Immigrants to America from the 1850’s onwards began to manufacture carousels for fairs and special events. A noted manufacturer, Gustav Dentzel, set up manufacturing of carousels in Philidelphia around 1870. Many thousands of carousels were manufactured in the USA though now only one or two hundred survive.
Corousels will no doubt remain in our culture and retain the ability to act as a link to diverse facets of our national cultures. The ‘Carrousel des Temps Modernes’ observed in Troyes in northern France, succeeds marvellously as an emblem of French culture.
Fried, Frederick. A Pictorial History of the Carousel. Vestal Press, Ltd., 1964.
Fraley, Nina. The American Carousel, Redbug Publishing, 1979.