Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


Ross und Reiter / Horses and Riders
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the designs known as Ross und Reiter, or, in English, as Horse and Rider, Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect, if you have any other information that should be added, or if you can contribute a more accurate translation. Thank you.

In his book 'Jugenderinnerungen eines altes Mannes' (Youth Memoirs of an Old Man), published by Wilhelm Herz Verlag Berlin in 1870, Wilhelm von Kügelgen describes how, in about 1812, when the family were living in Dresden, his then tutor, the painter Carl Adolf Senff (1785-1863), taught him, together with his siblings Gerhard and Adelheid, and the Leipzig friends Alfred and Julius Volksmann, to fold Krahen (crows), the design now most commonly known as the Cocotte / Pajarita. Information from Joan Sallas.

In English, very roughly, and with the omission of difficult parts, 'The most enjoyable thing that Senff taught us was the art of folding certain small triangular shapes, otherwise known as 'crows', out of paper, but when they were made, the last fold was so difficult that it could not be taught … We used to leave this accomplishment to the old master Senff for quite some time until we finally got to grips with it one by one. In the meantime, those paper figures should not, according to Senff, depict crows ... but rather soldiers, which our obedient imagination willingly accepted, since their completely indifferent form allowed any interpretation ... Through different paper colors and small changes in the folds, we now represented all branches of arms, even riders, since Senff had invented a way to change and expand those soldiers by a highly ingenious manipulation in such a way that they gained the appearance of horses... You only had to put the infantry on them. Finally, small throwing guns were made ... which were used for cannons and their bullets. I hardly knew that anything in the world had ever given me more pleasure than equipping and playing with this paper army. We gradually brought it to the enormous number of eight hundred to a thousand men ...'

According to the book 'Folding Beauty' by Joan Sallas: 'In all, 33 of the actual models ... dating back to between 1810 and 1812, are preserved in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (German National Museum) in Nuremberg, including 16 foot soldiers, 8 riders and 9 horses from different regiments of the Royal Saxon Army.'

There are also six figures (twelve if you count horses and riders separately) in the Museum fur Sachsische Volkskunst (Saxony Folk Art Museum) in Dresden, which were probably made in about 1845. According to Joan Sallas: 'It seems likely that these were made by Wilhelm von Kügelgen for his own children, in which case the large letter “B” that appears with a crown on the saddle cloth of one of the horses may well be the initial of his son Benno.'

Horses and Riders folded by Wilhelm von Kügelgen in 1845

It is not clear whether Senff invented the way of adapting Cocotte / Pajaritas into Ross und Reiter himself or whether he learned it elsewhere and simply passed his knowledge on. It is also not clear where he might have learned to fold Cocotte / Pajaritas, since there is no other evidence for this design in Germany at this date.