The Jacquard Puppets,
'Crooner', 'Prima Donna' and a man in evening dress,
Crooner 38cm high
Prima Donna 37cm high (3)
The Crooner came into being in 1937 as a request from Cecil Madden at the BBC, and was based on Rudy Vallee...a striking likeness!
The Prima Donna, also known as Madam Sally Gerta, was a caricature of Dame Nellie Melba and unusually had an articulated jaw.
The man in evening dress was originally a pianist in a jazz band act and was probably based on a real individual, currently unidentified.
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We’re delighted to offer this collection of marionettes, theatre props and staging made by John Carr (1884-1971). Some of the puppets were used in the early days of British television, appearing in twenty-one live BBC broadcasts in the late 1930s.
John Carr and his cast of characters performed as The Jacquard Puppet Company between 1933 and 1970. The company was one of a few to use small marionettes (each measuring between 12 and 14 inches tall) - something that was very much in its favour in the early days of television.
Carr was given the chance to perform in front of the camera in 1937 – less than a decade after the first-ever experimental BBC television broadcast (30 September 1929) and just months after the BBC Television Service officially launched from a converted wing of Alexandra Palace in London (2 November 1936).
Meeting an enthusiastic reception, he gained the support of the influential BBC TV pioneer Cecil Madden and was encouraged to develop new and more complex acts. A talented woodcarver and lifelong member of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild, Carr made his own puppets with the costumes provided by his wife, Eva.
In its pomp, the company (aided by the couple’s four children) used around 100 different marionettes – characters with titles such as Barnacle Bill the Sailor, The Walrus and The Carpenter, Barney the Bashful Bullfrog and William the Yokel. Many referenced characters that were popular on stage and screen.
The Cello Trio (lot 212) first appeared in 1936 and became one of the most popular acts. John Carr made great efforts to make the actions as realistic as possible and the only surviving moving image of the puppets shows how well this worked. In March 1936, a reviewer wrote: '...the wizardry with which Mr Carr and his family manipulate the violinist, cellist and pianist in synchrony with the recording of a complicated trio was as amazing as ever...'. Sir Adrian Boult is quoted as saying that the lady cellist had the typical 'cellist's expression'.
Sold for £260
The Jacquard puppets - general condition report
The puppets have been stored for many years, the strings have mainly gone, and those that are left are fragile and snap easily and most will need to be restrung. Some were made just before the second world war, others in the following two decades. They were made from whatever was available, pieces of wood, leather, dress and upholstery fabrics, felt, etc. The clothing and fabrics are generally in reasonable condition, with little moth or damp damage.
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Auction: Design - Two Day Sale, Tue, 17th May 2022
Viewing will be held at our Stansted Auction Rooms, Cambridge Road, Stansted Mountfitchet CM24 8GE, as follows:
Sat 14 May, 10am - 1pm
Sun 15 May, 10am - 1pm
Mon 16 May, 10am - 5pm
All lots are, however, extensively illustrated and carry detailed condition reports - see 'Condition report' at the foot of each lot description.
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