Skeleton figure - 2020.79.33_1


Skeleton figure

Medium:Clay, paint, wire, coiled wire metal spring, tinsel
Geography: Mexico
Date: 1970s
8.5 × 3 cm
Object number: 2020.79.33
Credit Line: From the Collection of Hanni Sager, Ayako Ellen Anderson, and Creative Spirit Art Centre
Not on view

Tightly coiled metal springs represent the limbs, which end with clay hands and feet; the springs give mobility to this toy. A wire loop (tinsel covered halo) is attached to the top of this toy, which could be dangled amusingly.

Toys like this have traditionally been sold in Mexico City and other urban centres before the Day of the Dead on 2 November.

Toy-making is probably the most overlooked of Mexico’s rich folk-art traditions. It was a cottage industry, with specialized types originating in different regions of Mexico. They were largely sold in local markets as playthings for poorer children, although some could be found in tourist craft stores. Many of the toys were also used in, or otherwise tied to, traditional cultural events like the Day of the Dead. During the 1980s, toys handmade for sale became a rarity in Mexico as children came to prefer mass-produced plastic toys that could be acquired at competitive prices.

 Hanni Sager was born in Switzerland in 1938 and in the late 1950s, soon after graduating with a degree fashion design, moved to Toronto. Over much of her life Hanni suffered the debilitating effects of muscular dystrophy. One winter in the 1970s, she travelled to Mexico for relief from a severe relapse and there she discovered a world of folk toys. From that time on, Hanni spent much of her time in Mexico and acquired this collection of 77 toys in various parts of Mexico. Most importantly, she developed workshops on toy making in orphanages for handicapped children and for urban street kids. Through her work, Hanni instilled in some of the poorest and most disabled children the understanding that they could transcend their conditions and achieve dignity and a sense of their own self-worth. Hanni passed her collection on to the Creative Spirit Art Centre in Toronto, and when that organization closed its doors the Director, Ellen Anderson, offered it to the ROM.

If you see an error or have additional information, please contact us by clicking here.