From the Curious to the Extraordinary

Photographs above: Flea circus photograph by Robert Doisneau; an egg of the Elephant Bird from Madagascar 

In January 2020, Chiswick Auctions will hold its inaugural From the Curious to the Extraordinary auction. The sale will celebrate the weird, the wonderful and everything in between and will be the ultimate cabinet of curiosity for interior enthusiasts or those with eccentric tastes. Ahead of the sale, we take a look at some of the items already consigned by their Specialists.

Step right up, come one, come all to the greatest show on earth

French photographer Robert Doisneau is known for his humanist photography and romantic images of Paris. In contrast Doiseneau’s work in the Curious sale ‘A flea tows a gun carriage as part of Wagner’s flea circus’ captures the bizarre but charming and once extremely popular mode of entertainment.

The flea circuses heyday was in the 1830s due to the abundance of fleas and was originally used by watchmakers to display miniature objects. The circuses remained popular for 50 years but slowly died out due to modern hygiene practices and the invention of the vacuum cleaner, which wiped the star performers out, making this image a throwback to a bygone era. Estimate: £400-600.

How many eggs does it take to make an omelette?

Like their namesake the flightless Elephant Bird from Madagascar was huge! Standing at a towering 3 meters, their eggs were no exception on the size scale, measuring in at 34cm and weighing around 10kg. Now extinct, they are the largest type of bird eggs to ever be found, with the volume of a single Elephant Bird egg weighing 160 times more than that of a chicken’s egg. Estimate:  £2,000-3,000.

The continuing mystery of the head and the theatre

This mysterious painted terracotta head is a fascinating sculptural object and yet we do not know the maker, function or subject. Indistinctly inscribed to the inside ‘John L.M.L ii V.on.V Theatre, London 1873’, despite much research, the owner has not been able to find a direct link to any particular theatre. It has been suggested, it was used as a stage prop or acting tool, perhaps a very strong man could place his head inside to play a part, hence the eyes that are drilled out. Whether it depicts the Green Man, a satyr or the devil himself is also up for discussion.
Estimate £1000-1500.

All creatures great and surreal

This work by British artist Harriet Horton’s takes the ancient art of taxidermy developed by the Egyptians, who not surprisingly mastered this pretty well owing to their already apt skills of mummification and mixed it with a splash of surrealism and pop art.  Horton’s work becomes a bizarre mix of the macabre and a candy colour daydream, that would look perfect adorning any room. Estimate: £350-500.

If you are interested in the sale please contact Head of Sale, Rachael Osborn-Howard at

From the Curious to the Extraordinary will take place on Tuesday 21st January 2020.