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Merry Go Round

The carousel of childhood

So, like a forgotten fire,
a childhood can always flare up again within us.

Gaston Bachelard

The carousel, the symbol of funfairs, has a special place in the collective consciousness of many. Its origin can be traced back to the “Jeu de bague”, 18th century merry-go-rounds inspired by medieval jousting. Carousels appeared as a fairground attraction in the second half of the 19th century, powered by men or donkeys before the invent of steam and electric engines.

The ability to ride the horses on the merry-go-rounds made the crowds feel noble, as that privilege was generally reserved for soldiers and aristocrats. Carousels were also a way to experience adventure, especially for children. Being on their own they had to give their ticket and also experience the fear and thrill of being pulled away from their parents, only to be reunited as the carousel turned around just a bit farther.

The carousel on display at the Musée des Arts Forains is French with wooden horses designed for adults dating from 1900. It is a traditional merry-go-round with suspended flooring and galloping horses. 12 horses are aligned in rows of three create the impression of a moving cavalry. The galloping horses featuring a wooden tail were made by the Limonaire firm from Paris. They are joined by 8 majestic and richly ornamented German standing horses from Freidrich Heyn workshop. On the ceiling, painted canvases made by Marius Coppier represent 12 ideal women from the Belle Epoque.

The bas-relief of the rounding boards and crown centre are the work of the Belgian sculptor Jules Moulinas. Although identified as French, this carousel is a great example of the collaboration between many different European artists and styles.

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