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Thursday, June 9, 2016

From Theriault's, about a Wonderful Collection

Dear Friends, 

I remember the first time I met Ursula Brecht. Some 17 years ago in Munich I visited her and her late husband as I had heard legends and stories of what was perhaps Europe’s greatest private collection. In fact, it was Jurgen and Marianne Cieslik, the great German doll researchers, who had told me years ago before this meeting that "this is the most important private collection in Germany.” 

It was so long ago, in fact, that at the time of our first visit, Mrs. Brecht told me about her love of coffee from a small American company called “Starbucks” and despaired that it was impossible to get Starbucks coffee in Germany. Times have certainly changed in that regard. But the Brecht collection remained intact and beautifully preserved in her splendid Munich home. 

As she showed me around her home so many years ago, I recall thinking that if any one private collection in Europe could be considered a museum, this was it. As their main home was a few hours north, in Essen, the Munich residence served as a “getaway” for the Brecht family in which to enjoy their favorite city and to house the extraordinary collection gathered over four decades of passionate hunting. The dolls and automata were truly a sight to behold. 

Over the years we kept in touch. And given her years of writing books, publishing calendars, and being a leading figure in the world of dolls in Europe, I valued so much her thoughts and comments on our auctions and the way we presented dolls in our catalogs. It was a friendship after that first visit that was mostly through letters, emails, and cards being exchanged. 

In December she contacted me in a different way. Not the usual Christmas greeting but to tell me that the time had come. Being well into her 80’s, she said, the trip to Munich to spend weekends with her dolls had become less frequent and more difficult. She felt it was time to see them on to their next homes. As was always the plan, she wanted to witness and know firsthand that they would be cared for, loved, and brought to good homes across the world. 

As I stepped back into her Munich home for the first time since the 1990’s, everything was exactly the same. Every imaginable French bébés, automata, French fashions, rare mignonettes, early wood dolls and more were displayed in a wondrous fashion as if in a museum. As well, her respect for original costumes finds most pieces in fine outfits that have been painstakingly preserved. The dolls served not only as a centerpiece of her personal surroundings, but also, as the models for her numerous books and calendars that were a mainstay of European collectors in the 1980’s. 

That is why come July 26th in Washington DC, Theriault’s will present what will easily be considered the greatest auction since The Lucy Morgan Collection was offered some 11 years ago. Held at the historic and grand Mayflower Hotel, this day will stand as a tribute to one of the truly great European pioneer collectors of the 20th century. 

In the conclusion to her 1983 book, Precious Dolls, Ursula Brecht wrote about the importance of play in our grown-up worlds. She wrote "Play is a dream, a fantasy, a way to lose oneself...Play is not restricted by age. The blissful state a child sinks into can be experienced by grown-ups...who have kept a little of the child within themselves." And she built a collection, a private world, which captures this vision. 

I look forward to welcoming you to the exhibition and auction of the Ursula Brecht collection of antique dolls. 

Happy Collecting, 

Stuart Holbrook

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