Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mel Birnkrant's Snow White Carvings by Artist Charles Ponstingl

Mel Birnkrant first caught the collecting bug in the 1950s when he picked up a Mickey Mouse bank at a Paris flea market. Vintage Mickey Mouse toys (and other early comic characters) became his lifelong passion. His amassed collection is now legendary and has been written up in numerous newspapers and periodicals. The best place to see his finds, short of getting an invite to his home, is through his e-books at his website:

One of Mel's books, Carving the Comics, is dedicated entirely to his collection of artwork created by Charles Ponstingl. Charles was born in Allentown, PA during the mid 1930s. Yet, it wouldn't be until 1973 that he took up the art of carving. All his pieces are fashioned from wood and set in intricately designed shadow box scenes. Each is one-of-a-kind and patterned after early cartoon characters from his childhood.

Ponstingl placed his first few completed scenes on display at a local bank, but they garnered no interest from potential buyers. Still, over the next several years, he continued to carve. Then as chance would have it, our man Mel was introduced to the artwork through an antique dealer.The story of how Charles the artist and Mel the collector would bypass the middleman and finally meet in person is a good one and can be found in Birnkrant's online book. Their friendship blossomed as did the number of carvings.

From 1990-1995, Ponstingl added the Snow White gang to his catalogue of characters. Ten shadow boxes, one for each dwarf, the princess, witch and cottage. Measure about 4" deep.

All images copyrighted and beautifully photographed by Mel Birnkrant.

Birnkrant's impression of his artist friend's work...
What made these shadow boxes interesting to me was not so much the Seven Dwarfs, themselves, but the amazing creativity, variety, and consistency of the frames, and the situations Charles invented to put them in. Each one is different and unique. Although, they were carved years apart, the whole set fits together with an overriding unity.

In addition to the shadow boxes, Charles also created a large bas-relief, the design patterned after the original "cast portrait" sketch by Gustaf Tenggren.

Artist Charles Ponstingl in 2012, standing in front of his work collected by Mel Birnkrant.

Collector Mel Birnkrant.

Birnkrant's Mouse Heaven e-books can also be found at the Internet Archive, volumes 1, 2, and 3, plus volume 4 which is the complete Carving the Comics title. Special thanks to Major Pepperidge of Gorillas Don't Blog for the heads-up on these wonderful books.


  1. These look great! The backgrounds are so wonderfully detailed and rich.

    1. The magic is really in the details with these guys.

  2. Some of Ponstingl's carvings are beyond belief… and he is SO prolific. I don't know how he did it.