Auction of the Week: Lyon & Turnbull Puppetry Collection of John Blundall, February 28, 2018



2018-02-13 15:52:06

This week's auction is the Lyon & Turnbull sale 'Illustrated & Animated: The Collections of Burningham & Blundall', which features the personal collection of the renowned British puppeteer John Blundall. Here are 10 of our favourite lots heading for the block in Edinburgh on February 28.

Two Vietnamese water puppets

Estimate £ 200-300

These traditional Vietnamese water puppets, including a clown riding on a large fish, date back to the 19th and 20th centuries.

Vietnamese water puppetry originates from the 11th century, when flooded rice fields in the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam were used as stages by performers. Today shows are performed in pools, with puppeteers stood waist-deep in water hidden behind screens, controlling their puppets from beneath the water with large supporting rods.

19th century English marionette of a sailor fiddler

Estimate £200-300

This late 19th century marionette was made by the Tiller-Clowes troupe, one of the last Victorian puppet troupes in England.

The character is named Tommy One-Leg, a one-eyed, peg-legged sailor fiddler, who appeared during the performance of the popular comic music hall song 'How Cruel Were My Parents'. It was sung by Tommy's wife, who told the sad tale of how her husband has lost his eye and leg after being press-ganged into the navy, and how he was now reduced to busking in the streets with her.

Four Japanese Baku Adachi Noh masks

Estimate £ 300-500

This collection of 20th century masks originate from traditional Japanese performances known as 'Noh', and were made by the renowned craftsman Baku Adachi. 

First performed in the 14th century, Noh is a highly stylized form of musical drama which includes elaborate masks and costumes, and depicts stories from traditional Japanese literature.

Early 20th century Mr Punch puppet

Estimate £ 200-300

The character of Mr Punch made his first recorded appearance in England in 1662, during a performance in London's Covent Garden, and has remained a traditional, much-loved staple of children's puppet shows ever since.

This puppet was created in the early-20th century by Wal Kent, a highly renowned and prolific maker of Punch & Judy glove puppets, including those used in the famous 1963 Tony Hancock film 'The Punch & Judy Man'.

Traditional Thai marionette puppet

Estimate £ 200-300

This elaborate 20th century marionette originates from Thailand, where puppetry is part of a rich cultural tradition stretching back more than 300 years.

Known as 'hun lakhon lek', Thai puppetry features large puppets, measuring up to 1m tall, each controlled by three people using ropes and pulleys to create a graceful dancing movement.

Group of 1930s puppet heads

Estimate £ 1,000-1,500

This trio of original 1930s puppet heads are part of the German School of puppetry, and depict three significant leaders from the WWII era: British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, German Führer Adolf Hitler, and Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin.

Portrait marionette of Anna Pavlova as Papillon

Estimate £ 500-700

This early 20th century portrait marionette depicts Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova in her iconic role as the Butterfly in the 19th century ballet Papillion.

The puppet was created by the Piccoli Puppet Theatre, one of the most innovative marionette theatres in the world. The company was founded in Rome in 1914 by the celebrated arts publisher Vittorio Podrecca, and toured the world through the first half of the 20th century.

Screen-used amphibian puppet head from Fireball XL5

Estimate £ 800-1,200

This monstrous puppet head was created by John Blundall for an episode of the classic 1960s Gerry Anderson sci-fi TV show Fireball XL5.

The creature in question is an Aquaphibian, and later inspired the evil characters in another of Anderson's famous TV puppet shows, Stingray.

1950s Italian Puppet of Bargnocla

Estimate: £200-300

This 1950s-era puppet was created by the Ferrari Family troupe, one of Italy's most celebrated puppet theatre companies founded in 1892 by Italo Ferrari.

The character's name is Vladimiro Falesi, also known as 'Bargnocla', in memory of Ferrari's old employer, a shoemaker who had a large carbuncle on his forehead.

Puppet of Parker from Thunderbirds

Estimate £ 5,000-7,000

Here's Parker, Lady Penelope's faithful butler from Thunderbirds and one of the most famous TV puppets of all-time.

Blundall sculpted the original puppet for the show in 1965, and based him on "typical, clichéd butlers in black-and-white English comedy films".

He later stated that he "made Parker look so unlike the other puppets just to be bloody-minded, because I wanted to prove that to produce really strong characters in puppets, you need to stylize them and find two or three characteristics to combine and communicate with."

Whereas the original screen-used Parker was made from fibreglass, this non-screen-used puppet was hand-carved from wood by Blundall for his own personal collection.

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