An unlucky lady is for sale at Sheppard. It is a small doll of only 20 cm, with a suede face and disheveled hair (Lot 351: est. 50 to 80 €). In a sale full of fine and precious antiques, the doll is a humble offering. No one could accuse her of being so fresh. And yet, there is a quiet humor in his brown glass eyes.
her doll has seen it all. Her clothes are surprisingly fine: panties edged with lace, a skirt closed with a mother-of-pearl button and hand-knitted slippers. Formerly, she was a toy fit for a queen. There is a label on the sole of his foot that reads: “Hygienic Toys: Made in England by Chad Valley Co. Ltd.”
Chad Valley is a British brand, now owned by Argos, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. This doll was probably made around 1927. It would have been an expensive purchase. The dresses of the Chad Valley dolls had the finest details. Having received permission to make dolls modeled after the two English princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, Chad Valley received a royal warrant declaring them to be “HM The Queen’s toy makers”.
The royal pair are now highly collectable, as are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, made by Chad Valley in 1938. A full set of eight dolls sold for around € 1,060 at Bonhams, Los Angeles, in 2013. Notre Dame was -it in new condition, maybe over 200 €. “She seems to have been through wars,” explains auctioneer Philip Sheppard.
The doll was from the collection of Pat Martin, an antique dealer based in Co Wexford. His former home, the Game Keeper’s Lodge at Coolattin in Shillelagh, was sold in 2018. The first sale of his collection was in October and was led by Joe Mullen of Mullen’s Laurel Park. Pat Martin passed away in December 2020 and this auction includes many items from his collection.
Among them, a collection of Regency rosewood games (Lot 147: est. 800 to € 1,200) produced by Leuchars of Piccadilly London. The company received the Royal Warrant in 1837 for providing toiletry kits to the royal family.
They applied the same technologies – fine finishes and ingenious internal construction – to the set of games.
The box is bound in brass (approx 19cm high x 32cm wide x 22cm deep) and includes chess, checkers and dominoes. It dates from the second half of the 19th century and puts today’s cartons to shame.
There are two automata on sale, both from Pat Martin’s collection. The first is a songbird in a gilded cage (Lot 778: est. 800 to € 1,200), approximately 28 cm high and in perfect working order.
It is a cheerful piece with a hidden clockwork mechanism. When coiled, the bird chirps, opening and closing its beak and waving its feathers. The feathers are true and the song of the birds rings true too.
It was made in Switzerland by Reuge de Sainte-Croix, a company that still manufactures songbirds and other musical automatons.
The second automaton of the sale is much more elaborate (Lot 669: est. 1,400 to 1,800 €). It is a diorama of clowns playing in a glass dome, possibly French and probably made at the end of the 19th century.
The diorama is supported by mirrors and a curtain, which amplify the sense of theatricality. There are three clowns: one has a drum and a cymbal; one swings a chair over his nose; and one is balancing a plate on a pole. A small fluffy dog jumps in a hoop.
“The glass kept the figurines in great condition,” Sheppard says. In 2003, an automaton clown banjo player from Vichy sold at Christie’s for £ 8,813 (approximately € 10,000). This one too was in great condition, largely because the clown frightened children who put it in a closet, which helped preserve the original condition.
The clown automaton at Sheppard’s is also scary. If you have clown nightmares, steer clear. It is a large room (70cm high x 60cm wide) with a considerable presence. The catch is, it’s broken.
“All the gears and wires are there,” Sheppard says. “The music box too, and a bag of screws and washers. Someone who is inclined this way could get it started quite easily. Until then, no one knows what tune the music box will play or what the clowns will do when they come to life.
Sheppard’s Legacy of the Big House auction runs September 28-30. See sheppards.ie