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A particularly rare figure of an executioner surfaced at Chiswick Auctions on July 25.

This 10in (25cm) model, displayed on the end of a dusty mantelpiece in a house in west London, is thought to have come by descent from the family of Charles Marsh (1735-1812), a clerk in the War Office and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Its full history is unknown but it seems likely that it has descended through the same family since it was purchased c.1750. It has some condition issues including damage to both feet, although the base, typical of the plain dark pear wood used at Doccia in the 18th century, is likely to be original.

Florentine sculptor


Doccia executioner figure sold at Chiswick Auctions for £17,000.

The model is one of many based on the work of the Florentine sculptor Massimiliano Soldani Benzi (1656-1740).

Factory founder the Marchese Carlo Ginori acquired a large number of casts from Soldani’s estate, from which copies were made. Only two other versions of this precise model are thought to exist. One is in a private collection, and the other is in the Museo di Doccia.

However, the same figure was also adapted by the factory to represent Time on a clock case, while another variation, holding the severed head of St John the Baptist, is in the Wallace Collection.

Chiswick Auctions’ specialist Jim Peake provided the cataloguing which helped it to sell at £17,000 (estimate £3000-4000).

After interest from three phone lines and a commission bid, it was hammered down to a well-known London collector-dealer in the room.

This same buyer secured another Doccia figure from the west London rooms back in April. The figure, also from the same vendor, is a better-known model after Soldani: other Doccia models, often titled Dancing Faun with Cymbals, are held in a number of important institutional collections including the British Museum.

It had just a cursory catalogue description (“A 19th century Continental hard paste porcelain blanc de chine model of a mythological naked champion raised on a square wooden base, 30cm high”) and an estimate of £80-150. It had sold at £6500 but was surely not expensive.