Garden Dwarfs – The Smile and the History


Those of us owning a green space around the house are tempted to hide behind the trees and the flower beds one or several colorful garden dwarfs.

Where did these cute statues come from and how did they linger till day?

garden dwarfsThe answer is one related to history but also to the fairytale realm. It seems that the first garden dwarfs were created around 1800 by a German artisan named Philip Grieble.

He was the owner of a small shop selling animals and decorations made of terracotta. Grieble had the idea of creating the garden dwarfs being inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

The little terracotta figurines had very soon become a huge success not only in Germany but also in France and England.

A large number of small factories producing the garden dwarfs appeared very soon after, all over the Europe.

Every country added a certain touch to the dwarfs design and currently the most famous patterns became those made in Poland and Czech Republic. Germany somehow remained even nowadays the most active producer of garden dwarfs.

The dwarfs of today are made of cement rather than terracotta and then glazed and painted.

The methods differ from country to country and so do the color combinations. However the current estimations say that in Germany there are 25 million dwarfs while all over Europe their number raises to a few hundred millions.

Some of these little garden decorating items are very valuable. For example Lampy, the last survivor from the Sir Charles Isham collection is a garden dwarf statue insured for one million pounds.

According to the lore, the garden dwarfs are the descendents of the Priapus statues, the Romans used to populate their gardens with. According to others they are a minimized representation of the old miners from Germany.

The garden dwarfs of today are inspired as shape and expressions are concerned by the Walt Disney’s “Snow White and seven dwarfs” but also by the “Dwarfs” books of the Danish illustrator Rien Poortvielt which had a huge success during 1976.

Particularly, Poorvielt can be considered the inventor of the specific white beard and the funny red pointy cap which has become the symbol of the garden dwarfs worldwide.

The funny thing is that these cute and funny garden accessories have become a label of “pop” gardens and their presence in TV commercials made them into a must-have for anybody fond of traditional gardening.

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