A Superb Early 20th Century Ventriloquist's Dummy


Origin: English
Period: Late 19th/Early 20th Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1910
Height: 31 inches
Width (Shoulder to Shoulder):  9 inches

The head constructed of plaster, the body of paper maché, the legs and arms also of paper maché, with fabric attachments. The head, arms, and legs are painted a pinkish skin colour, the lips are painted red, the eyebrows and eyelashes black, and the eyes have rather menacing highlights in red.

The costume for the dummy is of exceptional quality, and is in very good condition. He wears a cotton-lined pink felt bonnet with ties, a double-breated silk lined wool overcoat with velvet collar, tartan trousers with elastic waist, cotton socks with original garters, and red leather shoes with stitched leather soles, and mother-of-pearl buttons. The glass eyes are of equally good quality; the genuine pupils and white-flecked blue irises make them uncannily realistic. On his head is a full (if ever so slightly thinning) shock of ginger hair.

The action is fully operational, and there are metal levers connected into the head the eyes move left, the leather lower lip moves all the way down to reveal white-painted teeth, the upper lip curls upward and the left eyelid fully closes.

Though the dummy is in good condition overall, there are a few minor condition issues, and it could perhaps benefit from some professional restoration. There are two small chips to the paint on the face which has been overpainted (as commonly with dummies of this date),  some of the hair has been replaced,  and the string to pull the mouth open has thinned and is no longer attached to the lever.

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. What it is about these things that frighten it is hard to say, but if you buy him you can find out. I would keep him in a locked room. You never know what Hugo is capable of…….