A Large 17thC Sculpted Red-Wax Figure of a Standing Child

Origin: English or possibly Dutch
Period: James II/William & Mary
Provenance: The Property of Mrs Denzil Ffennell, formerly of Martyr Worthy Place, Martyr Worthy, Nr. Winchester, Hampshire
Date: c.1670-90
Height: 25 inches
Diameter: 9 inches

The red wax model of a standing child, portrayed in period attire, her hands together clasped in prayer, her bodice and pleated dress with foliate moulded detailing survives from the seventeenth century, and most likely England.

The condition of the figure is fair. There are marks, scratches and abrasions consistent with age, and some minor chips. There is one large crescent shaped crack through the pleated dress to the rear of the figure which as been re-attached and a small section of loss to this crack. The face and hands are all in tact and there is a nice patination to the whole that one would expect from a figure of this considerable age. The front of the figure shows no cracks.

These red wax figures have cropped up at auction only a handful of times. One such figure sold for £1100 in 2010, which was a gentleman, again in prayer but of only half the height of this particular example at 33cms. The consensus of opinion is that they are English, but there was a large cultural cross-over with the Netherlands during the period, so some might just as easily be of Dutch make.  They are usually fairly fragile, so presumably were not intended to be dolls. Having said that, it is not certain precisely what their purpose was.

This figure came from the estate of Mrs Denzil Ffennell, formerly of Martyr Worthy Place, Martyr Worthy, Nr. Winchester, Hampshire which is now valued at around £3m. The Ffennell family bought the 18thC house in 1926 and made further additions to the Arts and Crafts garden. They sold the main house in 1978-9. However, the grounds were divided up so that the Arts and Craft garden, the small parkland area to the north and the gardener's cottage were retained by a Trust set up by the Ffennell family. This figure was part of the contents that was dispersed.

We like the fact that no one seems to know exactly what the purpose for this type of figure was. There are very few around and we cannot find another of a child, or any figure at all of this imposing size, having been sold.

Hauntingly intriguing.