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Ell measure

Object Number: 
Z.79
Date: 
1780-1820
Medium: 
Wood, ivory
Dimensions: 
Overall: 34 x 1 x 1 in. ( 86.4 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm )
Inscriptions: 

hand written: label attached to rod: "643 / German"

Description: 
Wooden ell measure with geometric inlaid decoration on the four-sided shaft; turned baluster handle with ivory rivet.
Gallery Label: 
Like other weaving utensils, ell measures were popular love-tokens, as seen in the rich inlay, turned baluster handle, and elegant tapering of this piece. The term "ell" was derived from an Old Germanic word for the forearm and was similar to the cubit, a unit of measure approximating the length of one's arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Also called ell wands, ell measures like this one were primarily used by women for measuring home-woven fabric as well as by merchants in the trade of European textiles, and thus the cloth-ell - twice the length of the original cubit-sized ell - would become the normal length of these measuring rods. Still, in Germany, where this ell measure was produced, nearly every town had its own standards for measurement, with one ell ranging from 24 to 32 inches depending on the region. Such implements would have suited Viola Nadelman's taste for lace, embroideries, and fabrics, which she had already begun collecting at the time of her marriage to Elie Nadelman in 1919. Indeed, an inventory ca. 1930 of the Nadelman's Museum of Folk and Peasant Arts lists "161 implements for making lace, weaving, sewing, knitting, etc." This object was once part of the folk art collection of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), the avant-garde sculptor. From 1924 to 1934, Nadelman's collection was displayed in his Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Historical Society purchased Nadelman's entire collection in 1937.
Credit Line: 
Purchased from Elie Nadelman, 1937
Provenance: 
Purchased by Elie and Viola Nadelman, Aug. 1924; The Folk Art Collection of Elie Nadelman.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group