Italian double bass player Domenico Dragonetti, who revealed the possibilities of the double bass as a solo instrument to both Beethoven and Haydn, was well-known for his eccentricities. He was a keen collector of musical instruments, paintings and snuff-boxes – including one given to him by Beethoven – at his London lodgings. But he also collected dolls, apparently touring with them and even seating them in the audience at his concerts.

“In his ‘salon’ in Leicester Square, he has collected...

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