Marcus Illions Carousel Horses
Marcus Illions was a Lithuanian woodcarver during the late nineteenth century. Originally in Lithuania, and later in England, he made a living building circus wagons. In 1888, he moved to Coney Island, New York with Frank C. Bostock, a British animal trainer. Initially, Illions carved at the shop of renowned carousel carver Charles Looff and began to perfect the craft. In 1909, llions opened his own shop in Coney Island, calling it M.C. Illions and Sons Carousell Works. His creations which followed this move are considered by many to be the greatest among carousel carvers.
Illions was known for a distinct depiction of the carousel horse, which became known as The Coney Island Style. His horses featured ornate, often bejeweled bodies and gaudy heads. Very often, gold and silver leafing would accent the horse. Another feature, which is apparent in the image on the right, is the flying mane. Illions watched real horses and used their likeness as the inspiration for his work.
By the 1930’s, the Great Depression had drastically decreased demand for carousel horses, as people had to focus on necessities. Sadly, Marcus Illions passed away in 1949 with little money to his name. The New York Times labeled him “The Michelangelo of carousel carvers”.
The horse shown on the right is a Tobin Fraley porcelain model designed to represent Marcus Illions carving from Coney Island in 1923. It has a brass base with a brass emblem indicating that it is a limited edition (#2865 of 4500). It has a porcelain body with a brass tail and mane. Its body is hand painted and speckled with rhinestones. This horse itself does not date back to 1923, but is a wonderful reminder of a different time and an ode to a master craftsman.
At the height of the popularity of carousels, 1890-1920, there were thousands of these hand-crafted creations operating in the United States. Today, the original antique carousels are a rarity; there are less than 200 functioning antique carousels.
The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village is proud to feature this homage to the “Michelangelo of carousel carvers”, Marcus Illions; in addition to other replica carousel horses. To see this beautiful collectible, along with our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut.