Monday, January 28, 2013

Color Your World Beautiful With This Rare and Exotic Steiff Studio Parrot

Steiffgal's not sure what the weather's like where you are, but around these parts it's nothing but grey, grey, and grey... mixed with alot of cold!  So imagine her delight when she opened her inbox to find this SUPER COLORFUL... and tropical... Steiff inquiry awaiting! Check out this note from a reader who asks about a longstanding and life sized family treasure.  Merrill writes:

"Hello Steiffgal,

I have a large Steiff Parrot which we bought at FAO Schwarz in New York for one of my sons, some forty plus years ago.  I'm intending to sell it because he no longer has any interest in keeping it.  I am enclosing some photos I've taken so you can see what it looks like.

I have been unable to find any information on a large Steiff parrot, 34" in length, and wonder if you have ever seen it before.   It does have a Steiff button on one wing tip and you can tell from the photo that it's beak has deteriorated over the years.

I've been in contact with a person who seems to know how to go about repairing it but that is all I've been able to accomplish so far.  Were many made?  Was it done specially for FAO Schwarz?

Thank you!

Well, bird's the word when it comes to this great parrot!  What we have here is Steiff's Papagei Ara or Ara Parrot.  He is a studio, or life sized, treasure and measures 50 cm (without the tail) and about 85 cm with the tail.  He is standing made from mohair and felt.  His facial mask and beak area are made from a rubbery material which tends to disintegrate over time.  Ara came in two main colors - red or blue.  Merrill's appears to be the red version.  Ara was produced for one year only, in 1967.  You can see what Ara looked like when he was new in the photo on the left, which is taken from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1947-2003 Sortiment Book.

In terms of rarity, yes, this big bird is quite elusive!  Steiffgal has never actually seen one in person.  Because he was made for one year only, compounded by his complicated and detailed assembly, Steiffgal would think that very few were actually produced and sold in the mid 1960's.  He was in the general line and not an exclusive to any particular retailer.  However, it does not surprise Steiffgal that he was purchased at FAO Schwarz.  This US retailer has always had a special relationship with Steiff and has a long tradition of getting "first dibs" at the best and most outstanding Steiff inventory - like this life sized parrot!

Sadly, over time, Ara has lost his beak and part of his facial mask.  Steiffgal has seen this happen in another rare and life sized bird from 1967 - an owl.  Both beaks were made from a material which tends to dry out, crack, and disfigure over time.  Steiffgal understands and respects that some collectors are comfortable with restoration and some are not.  However, in the case of the owl, because the beak is such an integral part of the presentation, Steiffgal did recommend restoration.  You can see the before and after pictures above; the talented Martha Anderson of replaced the owl's beak with a carefully modeled and painted piece of leather.  Steiffgal would recommend the same course of action for Merrill's parrot, given how rare and majestic it is.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Merrill's parrot has added a spot of color to your day!

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