Origin: English
Period: Early 20thC
Provenance: A.W. Gamage Ltd, Holborn, London
Date: c.1930
Height: 33”
Depth: 6”
Width: 10” (all approximate & at extremities)

The early twentieth century period female vent figure, being an middle to elderly aged lady in form, and amazingly accompanied with the original receipt, being bought from A.W. Gamage Ltd, Holborn, London on 6th February 1930 for £1, 18 shillings and 6 pence, the figure of good proportions and in very original condition, with five mechanisms, the eyebrows moving up and down, and both eyes winking separately or blinking and a mouth movement, the whole made up of wooden composition parts with the hands painted in a light skin colour and the whole surviving from the 1930s England.

In very good overall condition she has been looked after very well overall and the original receipt is testament to that. There are no major flaws to report other than her left hand has been crushed at some stage so has damage as per the photographs, although there is no loss so this could be rectified with some careful attention. Otherwise she only displays wear commensurate with age and all five mechanisms work very well.

One of the photos shown is an original advertisement for Gamage's ventriloquial figures and heads, circa 1900, so thirty years previous, which shows a ‘girl knee figure’. (Image reproduced from Coram, 1900, back cover). A lesser known maker but of obvious quality, the original receipt comes with this figure in it’s own frame which is remarkable. Gamage’s strapline being ‘THE HOUSE OF PROGRESS FOR VENTRILOQUIAL FIGURES, HEADS. Etc.’ The amount shown on the original receipt provided of £1, 18 shillings and 6 pence would have been the wages for a week of a skilled tradesman.

Gamages was opened in 1879 as a small watch repair shop by Arthur Walter Gamage (1858-1930) and Frank Spain, but rapidly enlarged to become a monster-sized department store with a heavy mail-order business similar to that of some of the big New York stores, pitching itself as "The People's Popular Emporium". Gamages eventually included departments for cycling and motoring, and an especially well-loved toy department. Like Hamley's, Gamages spent a lot of money on promotions and advertising and events, had sufficient buying power to negotiate with toy manufacturers, and had a railway running around their toy department.

The uncanny nature of ventriloquist’s dummies has enthralled and spooked people for decades, and they continue to feature in horror films to this day. The idea of the ghost in the inanimate object is not a new one, Freud has written at length on the subject in his discussions on the uncanny, and ghost stories have featured dolls and portraits coming to life for centuries.

A very rare and idiosyncratic figure in many aspects; both being an elderly lady and by a lesser known but superb maker, and one with the original receipt; ticking all the boxes.