Written by Tom | 30th October 2020
We’re no strangers to the weird and wonderful here at Catawiki. In fact, we welcome it. But over the years we’ve seen a few objects in auction that have made even the most adventurous among us double-take. From drowned dolls to ‘mermaid’ skeletons, these are some of the most bizarre objects we’ve ever sold.
The Titanic’s doll head
It's believed this doll belonged to Eva Hart, a survivor of the Titanic
There’s big business around surviving objects from the Titanic and it’s become a collecting circle of its own. And while all the objects have historical value, this salvaged doll head is arguably the most haunting. It was found by a Spanish sailor in 1977 who was out fishing for tuna. He thought it was a rock at first but after cleaning it upon arriving home, he realised it was a doll’s head. It’s thought to belong to Eva Hart, a survivor of the Titanic who was 7 years old when it sank. The doll head sold for €6,500 and came complete with a rotating glass base to exhibit it.
The dog cemetery postcards
These postcards are of the pet cemetery in Asnières-sur-Seine
For the macabre-minded and animal lovers, these dog cemetery postcards
hit the spot. Mankind has long honoured animals with dedicated burial sites. The ancient Egyptians saw cats as deities, mummifying and burying them with dignity. And one of London’s major parks, Hyde Park, was home to an unofficial pet cemetery for over a hundred years in the gatekeeper’s garden. These postcards
are a continuation of that. In this collection, the postcards document a few of the many dogs that have found their resting place in the Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques
(The Cemetery of Dogs and Other Domestic Animals) in Asnières-sur-Seine, France – one of the earliest necropolises dedicated to animals.
The severed fingers chessboard
You'll notice the King from its sharp nail and the Queen from its jagged crown
Chess has always been a game filled with enigmatic and unorthodox minds and this chessboard
confirms those suspicions. Unlike normal chess pieces, this chessboard has all its key players styled in the form of a king and queen’s severed fingers. The King and the Queen chess pieces are distinguished by the nail of the finger – a sharp, triangular cut for the King, and a jagged crown for the Queen. Make the next move on this blood-spattered chessboard if you dare.
The scorpion sculpture turned taser
This sculpture looks intimidating and can be when switched on
Scorpions can be frightening and lethal when alive and this Scorpion-shaped sculpture
isn’t any different. And that’s because it’s not just a decorative sculpture – it’s an electric taser too. Described as something for your home or office, it’s a conspicuous piece to say the least. Made of metal and coated in a gold sheen with beady red eyes, you’d probably keep your distance from it even without the knowledge it could give you a shock. It’s now found a happy home but we’ll never look at decorative objects
in the same way.
The Fiji Mermaid
This 'mermaid' is half-monkey, half-fish
Forget any preconceptions about what you think a mermaid might look like because this specimen reinvents one of fiction’s favourite underwater beings. The ‘Fiji Mermaid’ has a bizarre story
behind it, one that befits it’s bizarre appearance. Half fish, half monkey, this creature came about through an unusual practice in Japan, where fishermen stitched monkey’s upper torsos onto the bodies of fish for ‘religious purposes’. This procedure earned itself some notoriety and replicas were soon made across the world. This specific example sold for €1000, but it seems unlikely it’s going to find its way into a Disney adaptation anytime soon.
The punk rat
This rat is unusually styled in the vein of punk musicians
If you’re a taxidermist
with a penchant for punk, this anthropomorphic ‘punk rat’
might have been for you. Measuring 17cm and complete with a leather jacket, chains and a mohawk, it’s one for your cabinet of curiosities or to keep other non-musically inclined mice at bay. It’s lovingly come to be known as ‘Ratawiki’ and it sold back in 2017 for €100.
The doll shepherdess
You can decide whether you'd let her guide you home or not.
Ever been lost in the countryside and needed guiding home by a local shepherd? Well, this doll
takes its inspiration from the shepherdesses of the past, though you’d probably be wise not to look to her for directions. She’s a mechanical doll with a wind-up mechanism that plays music to help set the pastoral scene, though her jagged teeth lend a sense of eeriness to the whole process. She was sold for €200 and we’ve no doubt she’s held the attention of anybody that’s crossed her since.
The mysterious male
The 'Mona Lisa' of Catawiki?
Mystery has always played a central role at Catawiki and this ‘Mysterious male’
is a case in point. What makes him mysterious? Is it his material – paper mâché or ceramic
? Is it his purpose – decorative or culturally significant? Or is it his expression – joy or fear? We may never know but his enigmatic presence has haunted the Catawiki conscience for years. The only thing we do know is that the lore surrounding this peculiar object will forever be a mystery.
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