Sculpted by the renowned French artist Albert Marque (1872-1939), an extremely rare 1914 portrait doll originally commissioned for the Paris boutique Margaine-Lacroix sold to rousing applause for $168,000 (inclusive of 12% buyer's premium) at Frasher's July 9 auction.
The buyer beat out four phone bidders and additional on-site bidders at the KCI-Expo Center in Kansas City, US.
"The winning bidder is a collector of French dolls and German character dolls, and they obviously go for the very best," said Barbara Frasher, president of Frasher's Doll Auctions.
As noted by doll historians, during World War I, Albert Marque was persuaded by Parisian couturier Jeanne Margaine-LaCroix to sculpt 100 fashion dolls, each signed, numbered and clothed in a custom-designed costume representing royalty or a particular region of France.
The exquisite 22-inch dolls were celebrated by the French not only as important artworks but also as cultural icons that stood up proudly to the influx of wartime dolls from Germany.
The "A. Marque" doll in Frasher's sale was numbered "12," making it a very early and desirable example.
"I have only seen two other A. Marque dolls at auction with an earlier number," said Frasher. "While it has been said that 100 of these dolls were commissioned, that number is speculative. The highest number I have ever seen on this type of doll was around '60.'"
Frasher said the quality of sculpting on the doll is "exquisite… You can tell that it was the work of an accomplished sculptor, not only from the quality of the doll's head, but also the hands.
"The bisque head and limbs were added to a uniquely flared torso designed by French artist Aristodema Botta. The entire presentation is very unusual."
The doll was a popular attraction at the auction preview, Frasher said, because many collectors had never before had the opportunity to examine a rare A. Marque doll in person.
In 1993, Frasher's made headlines with another A. Marque doll. The rare, 23½-inch exhibition model depicting an elegant Creole lady was produced by Jumeau expressly for the 1884 World Exposition in New Orleans.
It sold for $231,000, and in so doing, set a World Record auction price for a French doll - a record that remained unchallenged for 17 years.
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