Published: May 25, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Theriault’s
ANNAPOLIS, MD. – In the world of doll sales, Theriault’s Marquis auctions rank among the most important ones to follow and the firm’s May 15-16 event did not disappoint. With more than 500 dolls marching across the block over the course of two days, the firm noted all lots sold for a combined total of $1,511,548. Company owner Florence Theriault said that she is seeing more and more international buyers joining usual Western Europe interest, including those from Singapore, Estonia, China and Russia.
“I was really thrilled with the Bru Bebes, not just for the prices but for the results we could bring to the sellers,” Theriault said. “We’re a small, family-run business and we make connections with our consignors; we get to know them as people, not just as clients. I have to admit, sometimes I’m cheering an object on not just because it’s a great object but because of the people who are selling it. When an item does well, I say ‘congratulations for history,’ I’m thrilled when things are appreciated. Really savvy art collectors are starting to see these as works of art.”
The house received what may be a world record for an early English wooden doll when one sold for $287,500, a price that launched it to an easy lead in this particular sale and into the stratosphere of other top-selling results the firm has achieved in recent years. Several features of the lot contributed to its high price, not least of which were a 12-gown trousseau that accompanied the circa 1740 doll, most of which dated to the Eighteenth Century. The extensive collection of garments suggested that the doll, which was described in the catalog as a “regal size,” had originally been owned by an aristocratic family.
“To survive herself is extraordinary, to survive with her clothing is simply astonishing,” Theriault commented.
The doll was known prior to the sale. Not only had it been published in Rosalie Whyel and Jill Gorman’s 2003 book, The Heart of the Tree, Early Wooden Dolls to the 1850s, but it was part of the collection of the Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art in Bellevue, Wash. When the museum closed in 2012, the collection was sold privately, when the doll’s seller acquired it. When asked why the doll was being sold, Theriault said they had made the decision during the pandemic to “make changes;” noting that they were so thrilled with the results that they sent her a bouquet of flowers.
The doll received interest from around the world, but Theriault said the four highest bidders were all American, including the private collector who will give the doll and her expansive trousseau a new home.
The consignor of the top lot also sold the doll that brought the third-highest price of the weekend, a French bisque poupee doll by Adelaide Huret that an American collector acquired for $44,850. It was marked on its torso “Medaille d’Argent Huret 22 Boulev. Montmartre Paris, Expos L’Univ 1867” and featured detailed modeling and painted face characteristic of those made during the Golden Age of the firm’s production. The 7-inch-tall doll was also accompanied by a sizeable trousseau in its original early wooden box with paper cover that included two signed Huret costumes and several Huret accessories as well as other unattributed undergarments, shoes, gloves and various personal articles.
A French bisque poupee doll by Edmond Rochard, its throat inset with a Stanhope jewel, realized $92,000, the second highest price in the sale. The 16-inch-tall figure was marked “E.A. Rochard Depose Brevete SGDG” and is illustrated in Danielle and Francois Theimer’s book, The Panorama of Parisienne Dolls. It sold to an American collector. Theriault noted the doll received more bidding interest than most of the dolls in the sale.
“The estimate was fairly low, which enticed a lot of people,” she said. “There are not that many that come along, we’ve had maybe four in our 50 years of auctioning. About four years ago, we sold one that had 18-20 Stanhope jewels to a museum in Roanoke, Va., for $333,500; that has served to pull up the prices on Rochards.”
As with other collecting categories, provenance often boosts value. “I think that any doll with a substantiated provenance gets added interest,” Theriault said. “Until recently, collectors would forget the history of a doll; more and more, we’re seeing collectors who are paying attention to the history and making note of a doll’s provenance.”
An American mid-Nineteenth Century cloth doll by Izannah Walker of Pawtucket, R.I., did particularly well, achieving $42,550 from a new buyer in Pennsylvania. Walker obtained a patent for her dolls in 1873 but the catalog suggests she was making them previously. The purpose of her patent was to create a doll that was “easily kept clean and not apt to injure a young child which may fall upon it. It will preserve its appearance for a long time.” Of particularly noteworthy comment were the painted ringlet curls with which the doll was depicted.
Theriault was particularly pleased with four lots of French bisque bebes by Leon Casimir Bru that came from one collection in Southern Pennsylvania. All had been originally owned by the seller’s grandmother. What was particular noteworthy was the rare small sizes of three of them – 0, 1 and 2 – that had survived in particularly fine condition. An 11-inch Size 0 dated to circa 1880 and realized $43,700, while a circa 1884 11½-inch Size 1 finished at $39,100. Following the pattern of a lower price for a larger size, a Size 2 that also dated to circa 1884 and stood 12½ inches tall brought $31,050. The fourth doll from the collection was a 17-inch Size 5, circa 1882, that topped off at $39,100.
“We have several buyers of miniature furniture, one of which is now donating to a local museum,” Theriault said. The sale included several pieces of miniature furniture and a couple of lots were worth noting. An early English wooden chair, circa the late Seventeenth or early Eighteenth Century, related to an example at the Victoria & Albert Museum that descended in the family of Lord and Lady Clapham. An American collector bid it to $17,250. It was followed by $13,225 paid for a Nineteenth Century Louis XV lady’s desk that may have been made by Maison Huret.
The automaton market is an area in which Theriault noted changes. Until recently, that niche has been dominated by a small group of long-term, mostly male, buyers and she said she was thrilled to see new bidders. Of particular note was the $31,050 paid by an American collector for a French musical “Fruit Seller” automaton.
Theriault’s next Marquis sale will take place July 10-11.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, 410-224-3655 or www.theriaults.com.
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