A miniature treasure hunt

Or: 'A hunt for miniatures at the biggest flea market in Europe'.

This past weekend we have been out treasure hunting. We started in Lille, France at the biggest flea market in Europe, about 150 to 200 kilometers (yes!) of the roads of Lille center given over to pedestrians and stalls. Parking around the area is crazy, but as long as you don't obstruct traffic, you can park anywhere you like, no parking tickets are issued. We were very lucky to find a parking space only two minutes after leaving the highway, at only a three minutes walk from the start of the Braderie.

It was wonderful. So many goodies to look at. I was hunting for miniatures of course, and I especially wanted a miniature portrait. After only 15 minutes I found her, a lovely miniature painted on ivory. She is a beauty from 1943, very finely painted. After a bit of haggling I got her for a very good price. I am just thrilled with this lovely portrait. The frame of course is too big to hang in my dolls house, so I'll have to search for another one.

Oddly enough, almost all of the treasures I bought are ivory pieces. Old of course! The little ´bucket´ you can see on the right is ivoire de Dieppe (ivory from Dieppe), it is a little match holder or ´pyrogène´ from around 1880 in excellent condition. I thought it would make a nice umbrella stand or something like that.

I also found two little books with ivory covers. The biggest one is a 19th century little prayer book, with prayers and illustrations to guide you through the week. The smaller ivory one is missing the book inside, as you can see it used to hold fables.

On Sunday we decided to leave Lille to the masses and visit Gent (Belgium) instead. And wouldn´t you know it, it was the weekend of their annual flea market. More stands to look at and treasure to find! I found a little silver and silver guilt salt sellar, which would be perfect with a big plant in it. On another stall I found another ivory piece. This time a little statue of Maria with Jesus on her arm. I like the way the folds in her dress are carved.

At one stall in Lille I saw two lovely ladies holding a miniature metal and glass armoire, just right for a dolls house. I decided to wait and see if they would put it down, but they liked it very much and tried to get a price on it. The stand holder was not very helpful, and as the ladies didn´t speak French, I helped them get a good price on it. I know it has found a good home with a fellow miniature collector.

As you can imagine, after seeing hundreds and hundreds of stalls, it is not so easy to find something suitable for a dolls house, but I am so happy with my finds!


  1. Josje, que maravillosas miniaturas has encontrado.
    A mi me encanta ir a mirar en los puestos y buscar las minis que van bien en 1 /12, es muy divertido regatear para sacar un mejor precio.
    Lo has hehco muy bien, son preciosas.
    besitos ascension

  2. The miniatures that you found are real treasures! I would love to go to that flea market. We have a similar one here in the US. It covers three states and is about 200 miles long. It only happens once a year and I still haven't managed to go.

  3. Beautiful purchases. The portrait is beautiful and I like very much the ivory statue of Maria and Jesus.
    You can really find amazing things at a flea market.

  4. Has conseguido unas piezas preciosas. Enhorabuena por las compras.
    Besos Clara

  5. I would love to go to flea market. The portrait is beautiful and i like the frame too:)


  6. Josje, wat heb je een prachtige mini´s gevonden. Ik geloof dat ik ook maar eens met m´n neus dichter op de stalletjes van de vlooienmarkt moet ;-)

  7. Josje, OMG!!! You found some amazing treasures! I really love that portrait. I love the way the light plays on her hair. She really is a beauty. Your statue of Mary has wonderful detail too. I love everything!! Aren't flea markets the best! I haven't gone to one since I have gotten into miniatures and keep thinking that I should! Now, you have convinced me!!!!

  8. You found such wonderful treasures! I love the St Mary statue, it's so nicely detailed. The portrait is gorgeous, and so is the lady portraited and the book is a gem too! I think I must visit the Netherlands soon and go treasure hunting on the flee markets :-)

  9. What beautiful finds! The Madonna and child is so beautifully carved, and has lovely patina. The book covers are lovely too - especially nice to have the prayer book with illustrations, I wonder what the fables would have looked like? And the portrait is very beautiful. I sometimes feel jealous of the wonderful fleamarkets I read about in blogs - but I can't really imagine going round one with 150-200km of stalls! I would think finding anything would be a miracle, let alone such treasures as these. I hope you weren't too exhausted!

  10. What a dream that would be, going to such a fabulous flea market and you have bought well, beautiful pieces.

  11. Ik hoop dat ik volgend jaar ook eens kan gaan, ik plan al 3 jaar dat weekend, maar er is altijd wel een andere verplichting die de plannen in de war brengt,haha!

    Je aankopen zijn prachtig, ik wens je heel veel plezier met je nieuwe vondsten.

    Nieuw stofje op de bank is idd lekker fris, maar ik hoop niet dat je het me kwalijk neemt als ik je vertel dat ik het vorige stofje mooier en meer bij de bank vindt passen...weet niet, paste beter bij het model van het bankje.


  12. Ascension, yes it is fun! Especially when you can haggle the price down to within your means. I saw some other pieces, but when I asked for the price, I didn't even try to haggle, far too expensive!

    Casey, what 200 miles and three states?! Where is this market? I'll be there next time!

    Geneviève, Thanks! It is great to search and then all of a sudden spot something amongst all of the other things. The little fable book cover was amongst a huge pile of junk, but I spotted it from the road as I was passing by. I was pleased as punch!

    Gracias Clara!

    Thanks Patty, yes do go to the flea markets! They are so much fun. My husband and I were talking about how amazing it is to see all this stuff, just to realize it has all been made by someone (or machine made), bought and then owned by someone... Just think what all is out there!


  13. NO, no, no!!!!!!!! I just wrote a huge comment in answer to all of you, and it was rejected... arghhhhh!
    I don't have time now to write a new one, sorry....How I hate it when this happens!!

  14. Heel mooi hoor wat je allemaal op de kop getikt hebt, vooral het potret is prachtig.
    Ben benieuwd waar je hem gaat hangen.

  15. Janne, I did not forget you! Just have been very busy and trying to get some of your things together. I like the frame too, a little bit big for the dolls house, but not for my real house!

    Lara, ja goed snuffelen, haha! In Nederland zal je wel andere dingen vinden dan in Frankrijk, maar daar moeten toch ook wel leuke dingen zijn. Maar ik geef toe, het is niet makkelijk, ik heb zelf ook weinig in Nederland gevonden.

    Pubdoll, these markets I visited were in France and Belgium. The only truly big flea markets in Holland are on Queens day (April 30th). These are held all over the country, but they really are flea markets. Everyone is allowed to sell everything they have, so you could get lucky and find some good antiques, but I haven't been that lucky in Holland so far.

  16. Rebecca, yes it is almost impossible to imagine that many stalls. Of course I didn't see them all ;) I wasn't tired at all, I would recommend my summer shoes to everyone: FitFlops, they're the best I've ever had (seriously!)

    Thank you Margaret!

    Sabiha, Ik ken dat ja! Dit was een beetje een last minute beslissing. Snel oppas geregeld (met dank aan oma) en hotelletje geboekt. Was ook wel erg leuk zo.
    Waaaaaaaat? Vind je mijn stofje niet mooi? Ik ben diep, diep teleurgesteld... Haha, natuurlijk mag je dat zeggen! Er zullen wel meer mensen zijn die dat vinden. Ik vind het zelf juist wel heel goed passen, beter dan het ander stofje. Het oude stofje zit nog wel op de achterkant, als een soort eerbetoon aan mijn eerste stoeltje ;)

  17. Maria, dank je! Ik wil haar waarschijnlijk in de slaapkamer hangen, maar ik weet nog niet of ik daar genoeg plaats heb aan de muur. Ik wil haar ook niet in een hoekje wegstoppen.

  18. Wat een prachtige blog heb je! met al die mooie piepkleine spulletjes die je vindt en maakt, en waar je dan ook nog geweldige foto's van maakt!

  19. Josje, Visiting you is always a pleasure! What an incredible findings!!! Love it!Smiles, pat

  20. Dank je wel Heleen! Ik heb net op jouw site gekeken, wat een gave tassen maak jij zeg!

    Thank you Patricia!

  21. I am very envious! You found some beautiful miniatures. Gill

  22. Thank you Gill! I have them on display in my kitchen now, so I get to see them all the time. I enjoy looking at them so much!

  23. Congratulations on all your miniature buys. They are lovely. The miniature painting of the woman is wonderful, hope you find a place for it.

    Want to mention the 18th c. kitchen Josje did for the PAN Amsterdam Art and Antiques fair as shown in the December 2010 issue of Miniature Collector magazine in the U.S. Congratulations, Josje!

  24. Ah, lucky Josje ... there is nothing quite so beautiful as the patina of old ivory and antique lace ... Your new treasures are lovely. I so miss being able to shop the marchés in France. The best one I ever stumbled across was at Sᵀ-Jean-Cap-Ferrat one fine Sunday, and of course no one forgets Sᵀ Ouen! Just discovered your tutorial on printing fabric, and it opens up a whole new mini-world for me. Thanks so much for your generosity in sharing.


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