A woman smoking a cigar (an absolute no-no in her time), a ”dude” throwing disapproving looks at her under his bowler hat, an innocent girl stoically enduring the scene, Joshua carrying a ram’s horn, all set to ”sound the trumpets of Jericho”, a faceless denture literally showing its teeth; they all seem to enjoy themselves, totally oblivious to a pair of cats silently judging one and all…
In an era when the most common remedy for a toothache was extraction, this dentist’s trade sign promoted dentures as an aesthetically pleasing alternative to a mouth with missing teeth.
This sculpture is an example of what trade figure carvers called the ”Girl of the Period”. Sculptures such as this advertised tobacconist, milliner and dressmaker shops. Although it was taboo for women to smoke cigarettes in the 1880s, a sculpture of a stylish young woman holding a cigarette placed outside a tobacconist shop may have enticed male customers. It may have also appealed to progressive women.
Carvers of trade figures often created caricatures of an urban type known as a ”Dude”. Stylish dudes of the late 1800s sported sizable moustaches and fashionable clothes. This dude is unique in comparison to others, because he appears careworn and lacks a broad smile. He may depict a portion of the American population that was now struggling despite previous success. As such, this quality makes this particular dude both an advertisement and a commentary on contemporary urban life.
The Gibbes Museum of Art, Permanent Collection
April 11th, 2018