An ivory and bronze sculpture by Demetre Chiparus of the Dolly Sisters, the legendary performing identical twins from the 1920s Jazz Age sold for £277,250 today (14th November) at Bonhams New Bond St, exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £150,000 - 200,000. Bidders in a packed sale room and on the phone fiercely competed for the sculpture, which is one of only five models of the statue made in the large size of 74cms.

Other Chiparus figures were among the top ten lots, with several exquisite sculptures realizing prices above their pre-sale estimates. 'Starfish', an exceptional Art Deco figure of an exotic dancer in a close fitting body costume, sold for £91,250 and 'Ayouta' a dynamic bronze and ivory female dancer sold for £18,750.

Bonhams Director of Decorative Arts, Mark Oliver, said, "The Dolly Sisters were such iconic figures during the 1920s and their fame continues to live on today. The Chiparus statue was executed when the twins were at their peak and is a wonderful evocation of that time and of two of its brightest stars. It was a great pleasure to see such high levels of interest in the sculpture with a fantastic price achieved for the piece."

The Dolly Sisters were born in Budapest and brought to America, aged 12, in 1905 by their immigrant parents. The sisters, Rosie' Roszika and 'Jenny' Janszieka Schwartz made their vaudeville debut two years later. It was not long before they were receiving gifts, including on one occasion a beribboned Rolls Royce, after their show.

After conquering Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies and taking New York Society by storm the twins came to London in 1920 where The Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, fell under their spell. He continued to see them both in Britain and the USA on and off for the rest of the decade, having it is said, a particular fondness for Jenny.

It was Jenny also who captured the heart of the retail magnate Gordon Selfridge. The widowed American born millionaire, whose life is the subject of a BBC drama to be screened in 2013, fell hopelessly in love with her. He showered her with gifts, paid off her enormous gambling debts and took himself to the verge of bankruptcy. The relationship lasted well into the 1930s although it was never clear whether it developed beyond friendship. For all their reputation, the Sisters were rather prudish and discreet. Not only did they not kiss and tell; they didn't even kiss.

The Dolly Sisters were a natural subject for Chiparus who was obsessed with vaudeville and created many works based on music hall and variety performers. His statue of the sisters is regarded as one of his finest works and is regularly chosen to represent his work.

The music hall was to be another important influence on Chiparus. The Dolly Sisters were well known music hall performers in the 1920s and 1930s. The girls would have worked at the Follies Bergere, the Moulin Rouge and the Alcazar, each hosting sumptuous Hollywood-style productions featuring flashy costumes and dancing which Chiparus loved to visit.

Chiparus went on to produce over 130 different bronze and ivory figurines, but the "Dolly Sisters" would be regarded as one of his most successful studies. It captures the spirit of the Art Deco period in all its splendor and blatant beauty.

Values stated include buyer's premium. Details can be found at www.bonhams.com


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and appraisal services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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  1. Mark Oliver
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    Bonhams
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