Canadian Child, 2009

Canadian Child, 2009

1. Oversize bicycle bell, Établissements Paul Maury, Paris, c. 1925
Steel, with fully functional internal gears and action
Image of rooster’s head inscribed on front of thumb-lever ring mechanism, “Le Coq” inscribed on reverse
Custom white-painted wooden plinth
Bell: 55.9 (h) x 81.0 x 61.0 cm
Plinth: 34.3 (h) x 121.9 x 121.9 cm

2. Family-album photograph, 1951
Black-and-white pigment print on archival paper, white-painted maple frame
Print: 21.0 (h) x 29.5 cm
Frame: 62.5 (h) x 57.8 x 3.4 cm

This precise enlargement of a tiny object was probably fabricated by Établissements Paul Maury as an engineering prototype for the mass-produced “Le Coq” line of bicycle bells.

French companies started to use the Gallic rooster, the country’s national symbol, in their marketing in the late 19th century, the symbol being especially useful in the burgeoning world of competitive sports. French bicycle maker A. Clément & Cie., for example, adopted the rooster, as did Émile Camuset, whose sportswear business would eventually become the giant “Le Coq Sportif” enterprise. The rooster symbol resonates through its associations with French history, culture, commerce and, ultimately, representations of virility, nationality and nationhood.

The photograph of Ydessa Hendeles was posed and taken by her father, Jacob Hendeles (1917–1987), shortly after her family emigrated from Germany to Toronto, Canada in the wake of World War II to create a new identity in a new world.

The photo shows a surface change in identity already, with the Union Flag (the Union Jack) flying on the handlebar of the tricycle. Though Canada sometimes used the Union Flag before the country gained its own flag in 1965, the Union Flag was always strictly speaking the symbol of the royal sovereign and his or her services and representatives. It was put on the tricycle to celebrate the visit to Canada and America of The Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. When they arrived in Toronto for a visit that lasted October 10–12, 1951, an estimated 500,000 greeted them. Contemporary documentary film footage and photographs show local buildings festooned with flags and banners for the visit and crowds of cheering children greeting the couple with Union Flags wherever they went.

Less than six months later, while Elizabeth was touring African countries, King George VI died. On June 2, 1953, she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II in a coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London. It was the first coronation broadcast on the relatively new medium of television, and, perhaps a mark of Canada’s close British ties at the time, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation beat out its American competitors by commandeering a Royal Air Force plane to fly the film back to Canada for the earliest possible broadcast.