Big-dollar Beauties: Dolls demand high auction prices

  • August 17, 2009 19:57

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Theriault's sold this French art doll, circa 1914, by sculptor Albert Marque on July 12 for $263,000.00 (including buyers premium), shattering the previous record for a similar model sold in 2003 for $215,000.00.
Martha Chase Alice and Wonderland Set, Pawtucket, R.I., c. 1920, est, $30,000-40,000, at Skinner's Oct. 10 auction.
Large Queen Anne Lady Doll in Mahogany and Walnut Veneered Display Case, England, c. 1720, est, $50,000-70,000, from the Richard Wright Collection, to be sold Oct. 10 at Skinner's.

Private collections are yielding some rare and coveted dolls to the auction market this year. An art doll from an Italian private collection provoked a heated paddle battle at Theriault's July 12 sale while the Richard Wright Collection at Skinner's will offer up many more supreme examples of doll-making this October.

On the eve of France's Bastille Day, Theriault's hammered down the gorgeously-outfitted French art doll for a world record price of $263,000. The previous record was $215,000 for a similar model sold in 2003.

Made in Paris by artist Albert Marque circa 1914, the doll came from the private collection of Eredi Di Adriana Bracco of Milan, Italy.

Marque, a renowned dollmaker, is believed to have been collaborating with (or at least influenced by) the Ballets Russes in Paris. The record-breaking doll is number 21 in a series of 100, identified on his foot as "Danseur Russe #2," and dressed in silks and velvet. Each doll in the series was meticulously costumed in eighteenth-century French court or in traditional Russian folklore outfits.

According to Antiques & the Arts, private collectors from California and Boston dueled on the phone before the doll was won by a floor bidder at the Atlanta sale. The auction house says the buyer was a prominent Boston collector.

Dozens of other dolls smashed their high estimates, including an 18-inch French bébé A.T. by Thuillier that went to $64,960 from a presale $30/50,000 estimate. (Prices realized include a 12% buyer's premium.)

Theriault's, the Annapolis-based specialty auction house for antique childhood items, continues with two more doll auctions this fall to be held at the historic Arizona Biltmore, October 31 and November 1. Highlights include antique dolls from North Carolina private collections and pristine 1950s-era Madame Alexander dolls from the collection of the late Martha Hester of Texas.

The fall is also doll season at Skinner's with a major sale to be held at the firm's Marlborough, Massachusetts, gallery. On October 10, Rare & Important Dolls from the Richard Wright Collection goes on the block.

Wright is remembered in collecting circles as a leading expert in the field of fine dolls. He was also a memorable appraiser on the PBS series, Antiques Roadshow.

Boston-based Skinner, Inc., teamed up with doll experts Andy and Becky Ourant of Adamstown, Pennsylvania, to evaluate Wright's collection. Three centuries of doll-making are represented from rare 18th-century English wooden dolls in incredible, all original condition, to fine nineteenth-century parian, bisque, china, and papier-mache dolls.

There is a delightful set of folk dolls and twentieth-century varieties, too.

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