An Early 20thC French Ventriloquist’s Dummy Head c.1910-20

SOLD

Origin: Probably French
Period: Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1905-15
Height: 16” (with stick handle)
Width: 6.25” (at head)
Depth: 6.5” (at head)

The turn of the century period male vent figure head of early build in very original attic condition, with at least seven operating mechanisms to animate the lips, hair, mouth, eyelids, tongue, and eyes, the wooden head stick with seven levers, the whole still retaining much of the pigskin hide covering, with pale blue glass eyes, auburn eyebrows, red lips and individual composite teeth, the carcass constructed of a combination of paper maché, pressed card and wooden composition parts surviving from early twentieth century France.

In fair overall original order, there has been no meddling with this figure-head at all and therefore he remains unrestored. He is thus in decorative relic condition so there are obvious losses; please see the photographs for a visual reference. Some of the mechanisms are still working and the figure was probably a smoker too though the tubes have perished for the smokers in the mouth but this is always the case.

This particular example has as many mechanisms as you will see; the workings inside the head show the sheer myriad of rods working at least seven separate operations with about half of them currently functioning; he can still be made as terrifying or as friendly as the beholder wishes. We have never had an example with a pigskin covering before now and we have sold over forty antique examples. Part of this examples appeal is it’s fragmentary nature, the earliness of the piece and the use of pigskin.

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.

Very decorative, early and unusual for his type, this vent head is a beautifully haunting sculptural piece that makes one focus on the threshold where the lifeless becomes animate.

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