She was eventually hammered down for £9500 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) at North Yorkshire saleroom Tennants on May 25 in the Antique and Vintage Costume, Textiles and Dolls Sale.
So why all the excitement for this little doll made from carved wood, with painted face, inset glass eyes and wearing a printed cotton dress?
For a start, this was a very early doll to come up at auction in this market, thought at first to be late 17th century.
Tennants specialist Sarah White says: “The age and good condition were key in the price achieved – it was a rare survivor from the era, and a more accurate date for the doll is mid-17th century.
“It is also very rare to find a doll of this size. There is a very strong market for early wooden dolls in England and the US, and when items do come up there are usually plenty of willing bidders.”
The buyer was a private client from the south of England who was “absolutely delighted with her purchase”, adds White.
This is the first time in the 20 years that White has worked at Tennants that the Leyburn auction house has sold a doll of this size and quality and period, although it frequently handles items of textile and costume from the 17th century.
The vendor was a private client who has been consigning items to Tennants over the last 12 months, clearing a family property in the south of England, and other items consigned include “good antique costume and samplers with Quaker provenance”.
Doll from century later
Meanwhile, another early English doll – but this time from a century later, c.1752, doubled the low estimate at Kent saleroom C&T Auctioneers on June 6 to sell for a hammer price of £5000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium).
Offered as part of the Fine Dolls, Dolls Houses, Teddy Bears, Juvenalia & Mechanical Music sale, a large, 2ft 4in (71cm) tall George II wooden doll had written in blue ink to the back of torso ‘Ursula’ belonged to Grace Marshall, London, 1752.
And coming up...
A trio of 18th century dolls, dubbed the ‘Byne Ladies’ and valued at £40,000, has been consigned to Special Auction Services in Newbury on June 19.
Kept in the same family for the last 200 years, the English carved and painted wooden dolls were thought to have originally belonged to Isabella Byne (1745-97), a reverend’s daughter from Northumberland who married into the wealthy Carr family at the age of 13 in 1758.
The earliest and rarest doll dates to c.1760-65, and is estimated at £10,000-15,000. The smallest, a 13in (33cm) high doll, centre, carries a £8000-12,000 guide, and the largest at 2ft (61cm) high is expected to make £6000-8000.
According to the saleroom, from research it appears that Isabella had five children, including three girls: Isabella Carr, born in 1760, Annabella Carr, born in 1763 and Harriet Carr, born in 1771. Therefore it is most probable that the three dolls, dating from around 1760 and the 1780s, were purchased either for these girls or purchased and kept by Isabella as mementos of the girls.
They have always passed down the female line, staying in the same family for the last 250 years, and have remained in the Capel-Cure family home, Blake Hall at Ongar in Essex, since the late 19th century.