16 Apr 2021
August 28, 2014 - Filed under: Features — Mark

In Britain, we are blessed by a history that has created many fascinating objects and curios, from Royal antique coffee tables to fine porcelain, although we can often be outdone in weirdness by our counterparts overseas.

In this vein, let us take a look at some of the more unusual artefacts that can sometimes find their way to our shores and auction houses:

The 1920s compact bottle bear

Hailing from Germany, this plush bear was made by the Nuremburg-based toy company Schuco. However, this vintage item was not designed for children, but in fact was created for early 20th-century ladies to carry around their cosmetics.

A cut-glass perfume bottle can be found inside of the bear, but only after pulling off its detachable head, which would reveal the stopper inside. With moving arms and legs, the little teddy would accompany ladies by travelling in their handbags.

Indonesian theatre masks

Adding a little bit of drama to our list, painted Topeng masks were created out of hardwood and tend to originate from the beginning of the last century.

Used in Indonesian productions, the bright, gleefully-ghoulish pieces were worn by performers to act out folk stories, as well as being used in festivals and celebrations. Partly designed for amusement, they perform the dual purpose of warding off any dangers.

Pierrot boudoir doll

While made in a number of countries, the boudoir doll is perhaps most intriguing in its French, Pierrot style. Created in the ‘20s and ‘30s, the long-limbed cloth clowns were made to sit on their owners’ beds, rather than be played with.

The dolls’ plaster faces were often painted to present wistful looks, in an attempt to convey the feelings of unrequited love that permeates Pierrot, one of the stock characters of early pantomime.

Eastern European coffins

The late 19th and early 20th centuries brought many wonderful woodwork designs, from inlaid Edwardian furniture to walnut chaise longues, however a number of ornate coffins from Eastern Europe tend to take the macabre biscuit.

The gothic designs – which were often painted with a number of images, including dragons and crucifixes, and sometimes contain windows – are hopefully not second-hand and can be used to add a little gruesome flavour to a space.

American cinematic artwork

Many of the posters made to advertise films in the early 20th century were designed by hand, before the painted artworks were printed for mass distribution. Copies of these prints have gained in popularity, with the kitsch items often adorning the walls of movie buffs and fashionistas alike.

However, it is still possible to get your hands on some of the original 1940s and ‘50s American posters, due to the way they were recycled between theatres, with some finding their way into the hands of collectors once the films went out of circulation.

Chinese incense burners

A number of decorative items hail from China, although perhaps some of the best are the assortment of devices that were used to burn incense.

Often in bronze, but sometimes in stone, bamboo, porcelain or brass, the ornate objects have been used for thousands of years by everyone from emperors to peasants.

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