Family Memories in A Collection of Toy Horses

The horse has occupied a unique role in mankind since the first human bestrode one of these magnificent beasts.

It is remembered in the myths of far distant past such as Pegasus, the flying horse, the magnificent Centaur which shows man’s desire to share the beauty and power of the horse, or the magical Unicorn, a joyful toy horse gift to many a young girl.

Claudia Bettiol fell in love with horses as a young woman during recovery from illness and has been captivated by the superb elegance, power, speed and grace of the horse ever since. When her family crumbled following tragedy, she turned to the horse to give her daughter Maria a source of strength and purpose, and that is where the story really starts.

From an initial small collection of artistic representations of the horse, a collection started of model and toy horses, a collection that is now possibly too large to be shown in one exhibition. Yet, it must be shown, to share the joy with others, the very young, children, adolescents, parents and grandparents.

The Museum of Toys in Zagarolo, housed in the wonderful Palazzo Rospigliosi on the top of the spur in Zagarolo, is an ideal place to share toy horses. It has selected a range of toys and works of art, models and games that each involve the horse.

The growth of the collection refected Maria’s growth from a young girl to now as a young adult. From baby toys, rocking horses and soft toys to Barbies and My Little Pony. In parallel Claudia expanded her collection of classical horses from Greece, Etruria and the Roman era. As Maria’s interests in riding blossomed, the collection expanded to encompass Eventing and Ranches.

Meanwhile the geographical spread included China with the glazed ceramic horses and central Asia. Collecting moved in parallel to toy horses of childhood to include a library of horse literature balanced by the horse in art. Some of Claudia’s passions of the artistic world are reflected in copies of works by Van Gogh, Degas, Dali and others.

In more recent years the eclectic nature has included one of the finest works of Turkish silk carpet art, an exquisite small piece of amazing fineness that took the hand weaver some 18 months to create.  Other miniatures such as Iranian enamelling also attract the careful eye.

Of course, one stand of the exhibitioon represents the horse in Italian art and artisanship, but it barely touches on the wide range of art forms and materials applied to the horse in all regions of Italy, including wood, alabaster, marble, bronze, brass, silver, gold, ceramic, Murano and other sources of glass.

In summary, a visit to see the toy horses will surely bring a smile to the face of all ages, and for many the exhibition of toy horses will be just one thrilling memory of the joys of childhood and of collecting.