In 1812, the Brothers Grimm released the tale of Snow White, the beautiful princess, born from a mother who wished for a child "as white as snow, as red as blood and as black as ebony".

Sadly, so the story goes that Snow White's mother died shortly after her daughter's birth. The second wife of Snow White's royal father, the evil stepmother, envied the girl for her beauty and wanted to see her dead. Snow White exiled herself to the forest where she lived with a group of miners, who were all on the short side, before eventually being rescued by a prince.

blog.php-231 Xavier Vives Mateu - Original sketch with Snow White after biting into the poisoned apple, pencil / paper

Snow White became one of the Grimm Brothers' most famous and beloved fairy tales. For centuries it has been adapted time and time again.

The idea of producing a full-length animated cartoon at Walt Disney Studios came about in 1935. By that time, the company had only produced animated shorts that screened in cinemas.

Unlike the literary version, Walt Disney wanted to focus more on the seven dwarves and their comic appeal, hence the movie's name Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

blog.php-232 Walt Disney Productions - Tin box in the form of a basket with motifs from the film, 1930s

Walt Disney faced mockery from the ranks of Hollywood and scepticism from the banks who offered little financial backing. However, Disney was determined to finish his epic project, with an incredible 750 employees working on his movie.

blog.php-233 7 Belgian advertising cards with film motifs, soap company Cadum, late 1930s

blog.php-234 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - An Art in Its Making, first edition 1994

For inspiration when it came to drawing the leading actors, Disney turned to Hollywood. The face of Snow White was inspired by Janet Gaynor, who won the first ever Academy Award for best actress in 1929. The figure of the Prince was inspired by comedic actor Douglas Fairbanks, whilst comedian Harpo Marx, served as inspiration for one of the dwarves.

blog.php-235 Left: Xavier Vives Mateu - Original sketch "The evil queen ask to her magic mirrow", pencil / paper
Right: Uta von Naumburg

For the face of the Evil Queen, Disney went a little further afield than Hollywood, to Naumburg Cathedral. Here he was inspired by a sculpture of Uta von Ballenstedt, standing beside her husband, Margrave Ekkehard II of Meissen. The piece from the 13th century is one of the most important sculptures of the German Gothic period.



Left: G. Leonardi / Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Ltd. - Snow White figure, circa 1938
Right: La Mode Studios / Walt Disney Productions - Table Lamp with "Doc" ("Chef"), 1938

Ultimately, the effort paid off, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was an instant hit when it came to American cinemas in 1937. The concept of animation with dramatic, romantic, comedy and musical numbers all proved to be a crowd pleaser.

Disney saw an opportunity to expand Snow White beyond the silver screen, since its release, Snow White merchandise and memorabilia has been a hit with audiences.


Left: Disney Studios - Original Courvoisier Production Cel, Sleepy - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937
Right: Henk Albers - original sketch of the dwarfs

Just this past weekend, an auction dedicated to Snow White memorabilia featuring 75 lots took place at the online auction house Catawiki. Figurines, drawings, toys, decorative pieces and collectible items from the Snow White universe all went under the virtual gavel.

Any disappointed Disney fans, fear not, Catawiki regularly host specialist auctions. Check out more here.

More on selling with Catawiki here.

Register here to get bidding on Catawiki.