Golden Age of Ningyō - Japanese Dolls from the Ayervais Collection - Saturday, October 15, 2022


Saturday, October 15, 2022 —
Marquis Antique Doll Auction.

The collection began with the one that got away. New York has long been considered the epicenter of many aspects of the art world. Great museums, great galleries, and great art fairs pepper the city not only geographically, but also in terms of the annual calendar of must-see events.

Michael Ayervais had been a habitué of that world, accustomed to attending the gallery openings, blockbuster museum shows and jaw-dropping art fairs. So, it was a singular moment back in 1986 when he entered the famed Park Avenue Armory Fair and encountered his first Japanese ningyō. It was a dairi-bina imperial couple for the Girl’s Day display. Clad in rich silk brocades, with haunting white faces, delicate hands and elaborate headgear, they were conceptually stunning and visually arresting. But more importantly, what were they?

For all his years on “the scene” Michael Ayervais had not encountered such a work of art. He went home, empty-handed but intrigued and wrestled with them all night, trying to place them in what he knew and loved about art. The next day he raced back to the fair intent on purchasing them. Whatever they were, he decided, they had to be his. But he was too late, sold the night before after he had left so entranced. So, again, he left the fair empty-handed, but with a new art-focus in his heart and soul. Ningyō.

And, thus, it has been for the last 36 years, a collecting journey of the soul. With virtually no written words to guide him, no lavish exhibition catalogues to peruse, no known authorities in his orbit to advise, and, initially, no Google search (!), it was through artistic instinct and dedicated passion that he began to amass what would become the greatest ningyō collection outside of Japan. By 1996 his collection had attracted the attention of the Japan Society in New York which staged an ambitious first-ever exhibition of Japanese dolls, inviting acclaimed ningyō specialists from Japan to select and catalogue this truly ground-breaking exhibition. And the book published in conjunction with the exhibition: Ningyō: The Art of the Human Figure, long remained the go-to source for those interested in ningyō history and culture.

Over the years, as the Ayervais Collection grew, it attracted even greater interest from Japan, with visits from members of the imperial family, diplomats, heads of Japanese corporations, researchers, and even TV documentarians who were struck not only by the breadth and depth of the collection, but by the fact that it was NOT in Japan, but in New York City, and NOT in a museum, but in the private home of one passionate collector.

Over the succeeding years elements of the collection have been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Mingei International Museum, the Morikami Museum, and many others. Selections of the Ayervais Collection have formed an important touchstone for a number of publications that have since emerged to help the collector and art enthusiast navigate and explore this fascinating world of ningyō.

And through it all Michael Ayervais has never lost the passion and intensity of the feeling that he first felt on encountering his first ningyō those many years ago. And that is the true essence of any great collection: passion, vision, dedication, and a soul-searching approach to what makes that piece, or that doll, a must have, worthy of being included in what is now and will forever remain a benchmark and storied collection: The Ayervais Collection of publications that have since emerged to help the collector and art enthusiast navigate and explore this fascinating world of ningyō.

Part I of the Ayervais Collection comes to auction on October 15 in Annapolis Maryland at Theriault’s just-opened new Gallery. Or if you prefer the collection is available for private viewing by appointment from September 26-October 13.


A gorgeous 176 page full color catalog of the collection written by Alan Scott Pate in consultation with Florence Theriault is available for $75 including priority shipping and after-auction prices. Shipping is free, and the books are sent priority mail. And after the auction you will receive prices realized to keep with the book forever. To order click here, email info@theriaults.com, or call 410-224-3655.



Preview for the auction begins at 10AM Eastern. The auction begins at 11AM Eastern. Attendance is encouraged! We also welcome absentee bidding, live telephone bidding, and live bidding on the internet. Too, you can “tune-in” to the online auction and watch and listen to the entire event. Questions? Give us a call and we’ll help you choose the bidding option that is best for you.

Auction Information
The auction will take place at Theriaults Studio Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland. For auction information call Theriault’s at 410-224-3655 M-F 9AM-5PM EST.

How To Bid. Choose the dolls that "speak" to you, and have the fun! You can bid absentee, bid live on the telephone, or bid live on the internet. For more information, please contact us at 410-224-3655 or email us at info@theriaults.com.