A Roguish c.1935 Ventriloquist’s Dummy

Origin: English
Period: Early/Mid 20th Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1930-45
Height: 37 inches (at maximum)
Width (Shoulder to Shoulder): 10.5 inches
(all approximate)

The early to mid twentieth century period dummy of good build quality, with two operating mechanisms being the mouth and upper lip, in a Salvation Army charity jumper, the head with a shock of chestnut hair and the body constructed of a combination of paper maché, and plaster composition parts with lower loose limbs with papier-mâché shoes with the hands painted in a light skin colour. The face with cheeky expression is also in a light skin colour, though with some later(?) red over-painting, the lips are painted red, the eyebrows black, the moveable glass eyes a brilliant blue.

In fair overall original condition, the over-painting to the face is evident, which could be restored but we actually think it gives him a rather unhinged character. The mouth mechanism works as does the top lip and although the eyes move there doesn't seem to be a mechanism for them. The legs and arms are fabric with wooden shoes at the end but there is no support in the legs or arms. The costume is probably original, the Salvation Army jumper emblazoned ‘Blood and Fire… The Salvation Army’ has good age to it and slightly tired but thoroughly charming. The maker of this dummy is unknown, though he is certainly not by one of the well-known makers.

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 charming, if not a little slightly disturbing and most certainly roguish vent figure and probably one with a rather chequered past.