A Superb Early 20thC Cased Ventriloquist’s Dummy Attributed to Arthur Quisto


Origin: English
Period: Early 20th Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1905-20
Height: 36 inches
Width (Shoulder to Shoulder): 12 inches (all approx)

The Edwardian period dummy of high build quality, in a taffeta and cotton white shirt with thick wool and nylon peat coat, the head with a thick shock of ginger curly hair under a navy school cap and the body constructed of a combination of paper maché, and plaster composition parts with lower limbs with fabric attachments with the wooden carved hands painted in a very light skin colour, the legs with royal blue woolen leggings and black painted plaster shoes. The face is also in a light skin color with reddened cheeks; the lips are painted red, the eyebrows and eyelashes black, the glass eyes blue. There is also the unusual addition of a mock tongue inside the mouth, a piece of flailing red fabric acting as the tongue. The whole is presented in the original quality leather carrying suitcase, in keeping with the period

In good overall original condition, there is only some small flaking to the paint on the raised parts of the face like the eyebrows, cheeks and nose. The costume for the dummy is of the highest tailored quality, and in excellent condition. The two buttons on the jacket are original as is the bow tie. There is one tape repair to one of the feet. Both the mouth and eye mechanisms are in good working order. There is a label for ‘Magical Mart, 79 York st, London W1’ on the underside of the dummy head.

The leather suitcase is of high quality and has several labels monogrammed with W.S.B to the top for W.W. Burgess of Wandsowrth, London SW18. There are further labels for Cunard White Star Line to New York and other baggage labels.

Arthur Quisto lived from 1882 to 1960. His real name was Edwin Simms. He was known primarily for his Punch & Judy Shows, but Quisto also built figures for Tom Coram and Arthur Prince. He used pneumatic devices and was the first to use electromagnetic devices to animate his figures.

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 hugely entertaining vent figure of large size and with an incredibly jolly, albeit slightly neurotic, disposition.