Theriault’s 150 Lot Auction of Automata Sells at $2 Million
Annapolis, MD -- November 23, 2008
The auction catalog, titled Music, Motion and Fancy, and whose hologram cover gave an illusion of mechanical movement, was divided into chapters emphasizing recurring themes of automaton makers. Of great interest was the automata shown in the Popular Culture section, including Buffalo Bill, whose Wild West Show barnstormed Paris for several years in the 1890s. The automaton featured Bill in authentic costume as seen in period photographs including his trademark high boots sculpted of paper mache. Buffalo Bill was designed as a “smoker gentleman”, an intricate hidden system of tubing allowing him the very realistic impression of “smoking up a storm”. He was hammered down for $36,000 to a delighted doll collector who plans to gift it to her husband. Mournful Pierrot, the beloved French Art Nouveau figure of popular culture was represented in several pieces. There was Pierrot Ecrivain, who for more than a 100 years has sat at his desk, penning a letter to his love, only to fall asleep, and then re-awaken, and begin to write again; he topped at $42,000. A Massachusetts collector will find a home for him amidst her other dolls and automata. And there was Pierrot Serenading the Moon who sang his way to $26,000. Other prices included Lady at Her Recamier for $34,000, Femme a la Psyche for $28,000, Fruit Seller with Surprises at $24,000 and Elegant Lady at the Piano for $15,500, all moving to the homes of traditional doll collectors. A fine small group of domed mechanical vignettes included a bisque-headed magician by Phalibois with two accompanying musicians that went to $30,000, three bisque-headed tightrope dancers in a garlanded setting at $15,000, and a pair of acrobats posed beneath a porcelain clock with exceptional and realistic movements for $23,000.
152 page full color hardbound catalogs with hologram cover are available for $75. Call 800-638-0422 or visit www.theriaults.com. Theriault’s, the Annapolis, Maryland based firm who has specialized in the auction of dolls and childhood ephemera for nearly 40 years, will hold its next cataloged auction in Newport Beach, California on January 9, 10, and 11. “And, yes, that auction will also include some lovely automata examples”, says Stuart Holbrook.