Kovel’s antiques: Amazing dolls
This wooden doll made in the 19th century can “walk.” The wheel of legs turns if the doll is pushed across the floor. This doll, 20 inches tall, sold for $8,500 at a Theriault’s auction in July 2012.
This is the time to run out to the grocery store and get a turkey for Thanksgiving. In the early 19th century, the turkey was a wild one, probably killed by a member of the community. If a time machine could bring someone from that era to our Thanksgiving dinner today, there would be very little inside or outside the house that has not changed. Food, communication, transportation, their contents and even toys might now be too complicated and look unfamiliar.
Even dolls have been “modernized.” Dolls today walk, talk, dance, answer questions, have washable hair and realistic “skin,” and seem almost alive thanks to batteries or electronics. But sometimes our ancestors created amazing dolls with limited tools but clever ideas. A doll made in the 19th century could also walk, but by a very unusual method. The doll’s body was carved of wood with moveable jointed arms and a swivel head mounted on a dowel. Eight legs with feet wearing shoes were arranged like spokes on a wheel. The fashionable doll dress of the day was long enough to cover most of the doll’s legs. Only two of the feet would show as a child “walked” the doll across the floor by making the wheel of legs turn. A rare doll like this sells for thousands of dollars today. There are very few still to be found.
Q. I have a set of four modern fully upholstered tulip chairs that are about 25 years old. I would like your help in establishing their value and maker. The only mark other than some numbers is a “Made in France” label.
A. The famous “tulip chair” was designed in 1955-56 by Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-American designer and architect. The chair has been in production ever since it was introduced, and its only licensed manufacturer has been Knoll Inc., now based in East Greenville, Pa.
Knockoffs have been made all over the world, though, and your chairs are probably among those unauthorized copies. They would not sell for as much as Knoll’s authentic tulip chairs.
Q. Years ago, I inherited a bronze bust of a woman. It’s titled “Orient” and is signed by “Villanis.” The bust is 30 inches tall and in great condition. We would like more information about maker and value.
A. Emmanuele Villanis was born in France in 1858. His parents were Italian and moved the family back to Italy in 1861. Villanis studied sculpture in Turin, Italy, and began exhibiting his work in about 1880. He moved to Paris in 1885 and died there in 1914. This bust and another bust of a woman, called “Europe,” were made for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Value of your “Orient” bust: $2,000 or more.
Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.
n Salt and pepper shakers, Thanksgiving turkeys, Chase, Japan, 1950s, 3 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches, $25.
n Postcard, “A Blessed Thanksgiving,” two children in Colonial dress saying grace at table, “With Thankful and Contented Hearts,” Ellen Clapsaddle, early-1900s, $25.
n Sterling-silver stuffing spoon, George III, hallmarked, Alice and George Burrows, London, c. 1803, 11 1/2 inches, $125.
n Clarice Cliff turkey platter, strutting gobbler, haystack background, brown and beige, Royal Staffordshire, 20th century, 19 x 15 inches, $125.
n Fiestaware salad serving set, 10-inch green fork, 8-inch red spoon, $150.
n Sterling-silver vegetable bowl, scrolling rim, border of scalloped flowers, vines and leaves, Bailey, Banks and Biddle, Philadelphia, c. 1897, 11 inches, $1,400.
n Doorstop, turkey, cast iron, Bradley & Hubbard, 12 1/2 inches, $4,600.
Write to Kovels, Observer-Reporter, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.