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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ancient Egypt, The Rest of the Ancient World, and Metal Dolls

Below is Chapter 1 of my book With Love from Tin Lizzie: A History of Metal Dolls, Dolls with Metal Parts and Automatons: it covers the ancient world in general and talks about dolls in Egypt:

Chapter 1
The Ancient World and Middle Ages

Dolls in the Ancient World were usually not toys, but idols or ritual figures representing various pagan gods. Ancient metal soldiers often served the same role that the ushabti of Egypt served when they accompanied the dead to their tombs as representatives of their live servants. Bronze statuettes representing the Sardinian mercenaries of Shar dana who served in Egypt date back to approximately 1000 B.C. and wear tall helmets, small shields and short swords. In Palestine, archaeologists discovered an early bronze spear thrower from Shigan closely resembling the linen-girdled wooden figures of the Egyptian dynasties.
The late Bronze Age, (approximately fourteenth to thirteenth century B.C.), has yielded metal molds which artists used to make pottery plaques of the goddess Astarte. Astarte was an early manifestation of the Greek Aphrodite, goddess of love. Small iron figures of nude women with their arms upraised and their hands holding snakes or lily stalks also date from this period. These are probably representations of the Snake Goddess of Crete. These dolls are found in Greece, around the Bosphorus in Asia Minor, in Italy, and in Gaul. These examples are usually jointed at the shoulders and hips (Chapuis 19). Usually, they were modeled clay around an iron rod and baked. In Automata, Alfred Chapuis observes that these dolls are found in great quantities in regions "where the art of the modeller, that is the maker of figures in baked earth or wax, flourished" (19). Chapuis theorizes that these are the dolls young girls consecrated at the altars of the female godesses before marriage (19). Other similar figures hold their arms clasped in front of them and uncannily resemble the stone bisque Frozen Charlottes and penny dolls of the 1800's.
Ancient Egypt, too, has given the modern word some spectacular doll-like objects made of gold and precious gems. One is the famous death mask of the boy king, Tut. It is of beaten gold decorated with glass, faience beads and lapis lazuli colored beads. Also from the tomb of Tut comes the realistic portrait figure of the young king lying on top of a gold stick. He closely resembles the ushabti figures of clay and glass from the same period. The Peggy Nisbet model of Tut has a head cast in metal. The head is a copy of the famous death mask. The Peggy Nisbet Company of England, now defunct, specialized in small composition and plastic figures of historical persons and celebrities.
Authentic tomb figures sometimes surfaced in collections of the 1930's and 40's. One collector wrote Janet Johl, noted doll historian and former reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, of a "three inch tall bronze Osiris" supposedly found in mummy wrappings. One hand of the doll holds a shepherd's crook or whip, while the other hand holds some sort of symbol. The owner thought the symbolic objects might be symbols of invading kings. One is reminded of the staves that Moses turned into serpents in the Charleton Heston film, The Ten Commandments. There was a bronze peg attached to the bottom of this doll (Johl SMAD 2). Modern reproductions of these figures are now made of brass or bronze and attached to basis. One five inch figure of Isis has a candle holder attached to her head. Her arms are akimbo and touch her head. and her close-fitting garment is carved with lines to imitate linen folds.
Doll collectors have long been familiar with the small, jointed clay dolls of the ancient Greeks. These little figure are among the earliest dolls actually to serve as toys. Besides these miniatures, however, that are often strung with metal, the Greeks also had dolls made of various metals.
The artisans of Mycenae were skilled in metal work while Egypt was still in its new kingdom in about 1600-1200 B.C. In fact, the hammered gold death mask of Mycenae has historical significance besides its interest to doll lovers because it was once believed to be the death mask of Agamemnon and thus served as proof of the historical existence of Troy and the Trojan War. Also during this period, the Hittites of Asia Minor were forging iron. Their work helped to bring about he end of the Bronze Age (Seltzman 15). The people of Crete were also famous for their metal work and archaeologists have found a stone matrix which served as a mold to make small metal figures. One of these is a little figurine holding a disk. Another is a small, gold statue of a woman. Modern toy soldiers are made in a similar way.
The metalworkers of Bronze Age Greece were not only skilled, but also highly respected. There was also a hierarchy to their craft. For example, Dactyls were Bronze smelters. This hierarchy and variation existed even in the pantheon of the Greek gods for Vulcan was the chief forger of Zeus and the Cyclopes were his helpers. Furthermore, a toreutike was an artist who carved or engraved works of gold, silver or bronze (Seltzman 13).
Artists and craftsmen of ancient Greece made a large variety of bronze figures representing sphinxes, gorgons, harpies and children. One small bronze doll of a boy wearing a belt and making an offering to Apollo is similar to an ancient Celtic doll of bronze. In Olympia, in the Attis, (Zeus's sacred grove), was found a grave containing small models of archaic Greek warriors. These were wearing helmets and breast plates. One could say that they are the ancestors of the later model soldiers.
Another type of doll or statuette is called a chryselephantine (Seltzman 16-17). This doll has a body of ivory and belts, armlets, hems and borders of gold. Gold studs are also implanted in the exposed nipples. Figures representing the Snake Goddess of Knossos of Crete even hold tiny golden snakes in their hands. The author has a modern reproduction of the Snake Goddess in her collection. While she is made entirely of a plaster-like substance, one can see where the original was decorated with gold by the painted detail
These goddess figures wear the elaborate curled, long, full skirt, and tight, open-breasted jackets of the well-to-do Cretan women of the time. Other chryselephantine figures represent one of the female toreadors of Crete. One doll wears a golden apron and corsage to protect her ribs, groin and belly as she grabs the bull's horns and jumps over his back. Like the Snake Goddess, her chest is bare. Her companion is a male toreador with a golden apron.
In Sparta there are small bronzes showing Hermes wearing a conical cap. One found in Arcadia in 560 B.C. carries arms and is around seven inches high. Ancestor dolls were tiny figures of lead or bronze that people set up in home shrines near the hearth. The little dolls were given offering so food and drink in return for healing a sick or injured person. This practice continues today in European churches where small metal images of tin resembling candy molds, called in Hispanic countries milagros, are left at churches when someone recovers from an illness or injury. These images can represent a whole person, or just the afflicted body part. When the author was in Greece she saw examples in the Cathedral in Athens representing a woman, a foot, a heart and a hand. E.M. Forster's short story "The Road from Colonnus" mentions these tin offerings nailed to what was once a sacred pagan tree in a tiny village. Also from Sparta come two figures in bronze of young girls. One holds flower while another holds her arms up as a mirror support. Another bronze of a woman is only six inches high, yet her garments are bordered in silver in the style of the sixth century revived under Claudius. She dates from around 50 A.D.
Finally, no discussion of metal dolls in Ancient Greece would be complete without discussion of the Charioteer of Delphi. The charioteer is not a doll, but a life-sized statue in bronze of an athlete. He was dedicated at Delphi by one Polyzalos and originally stood in a chariot drawn by life-sized horses. His eyes are onyx, surrounded by bronze eyelashes and his lips are inlaid with copper to make them look realistic. The author is discussing him here because the method of inlaying eyes in this and other statues is similar to the way glass eyes would be inserted in Minerva and Juno metal heads thousands of years later. When one actually stands before the Charioteer in the museum and looks into his face, she forgets that he is only a statue. Centuries later, the look of pure astonishment at winning the race is still reflected on his face as he clasps tightly the reigns of his horses. He must have been a magnificent sight when new. As he is, he is unforgettable. After seeing the life-like wax-works of Mme. Tussaud, one wonders if she ever saw the startled look of the Charioteer and was thereafter inspired when she created her own sculptures.
A jumping jack, though from Southern Russia, nevertheless shows Greek influence. He is a baked clay Hercules, wearing a lion's skin hood and holding a club and canthare (a drinking vessel). He is strung with bronze wires (Chapuis 20). This doll has been mentioned in the Dictionnaire des Antiquités (20).
Petronius writes of a banquet where the host had a water-clock (clepsydra), a mechanical horn player, and silver skeleton that was "so well contrived that its joints and its flexible back-bone could turn to every position" (21).
The Celts, like the Greeks, used small metal images as votive offerings in order to pray for health and healing. Many of these small figurines belong to the Halstatt Culture of the eight to fifth century B.C. This culture represents the earliest period of the Celtic Iron Age. Archaeologists now believe that many of these figures were not really votive, but rather that they were part of settlement washed away by a flood. They were fond in La Tene which is located by a lake on a mountainside.
Iron was to the Celts a sacred metal with magical powers. Known also as the "blood metal," it was forged by the god Lug. One could even imagine Excalibur, that magic sword of the legendary Celtic King, Arthur, was forged by iron. Given the importance which the early Celts attached to iron, it is not hard to believe that a lot of the tiny figures were indeed of a religious or ritual nature. One figure is of a horse and rider and is mounted on the handle of a bronze axe. Horses were important to Celtic myth and Epona, the horse goddess, holds a place of honor in the pantheon. Another figure represents a man raising his arms. He wears a round helmet similar to those one would wear today on safari along with a long tunic girdled tightly by a wide belt. He wears a bangle around his left ankle which is characteristic of Celtic dress for both men and women.
These votive offerings were also made of wood and stone and were often thrown into natural waters as offerings to the spring deities. Like the Greek examples mentioned earlier, they could represent a whole person, or only an afflicted body part.
More bronze figures have been discovered in the ruins of Roman Gaul. Now, though, the clothing and hairstyles appear almost Grecian in influence. Three of these figures date from 200 or 300 A.D. The first is of a musician wearing cris-crossed designs on his tunic and legwork. He appears to have a beard and his hand is raised as though he were holding an instrument. The second figure seems to be a barefoot priest or druid with a long-sleeved, knee length tunic. The hair is curled and the arm is outraised as if in benediction. The druids were the scholarly and priestly order of the Celts who handed down law and healed the sick. They also interceded with the gods and may have performed human sacrifices in their sacred oak groves early in Celtic history. The Romans methodically and mercilessly slaughtered them as they began to conquer the Celts. The third figure is of a dancing girl with delicate features. Her graceful, elongated body and limbs make her look as if she is made of plasticene clay. Her graceful pose clearly illustrates for the observer the fluidity of a dancer's movement. A tiny pewter gymnast of the twentieth century in the author's collection has some of the same grace and fluidity as the ancient Celtic dancer. She stands about four inches and was a gift to the author from her mother.
A Celtiberan wagon from Merida, Western Spain dates from the first century B.C. A horseman wearing patterned breeches is bent over his horse, naked from the waist up. He holds a spear and in front of him is a sacred boar. Next to him trots his faithful dog. The Celts were particularly fond of their dogs and they often appear in their myths and art; in fact, King Arthur himself is said to have wept during battle when his dog, Cabal was mortally wounded. Another even older model warrior was found in a burial chariot and dates from the seventh century B.C. He was discovered at Stretweg, Austria. From Primeaux, France comes a Gallo-Roman bronze figure representing Dagda, the "good god." Dagda is good because he does all things well, not because of his moral qualities. The figure holds a massive club to show strength and a cauldron, which, like the cornucopia, has the power to inspire and rejuvenate. Another French doll represents the god of thunder and holds a thunderbolt and wheel in his hand. He is naked and bearded, his only ornament being an ankle bracelet.
One fantastic find of these Celtic figurines was discovered in a grave mound at Strettweg. In one example, a naked goddess with painted breasts directs a procession of deceased to the afterlife. Often these miniature carts were placed in graves as tokens of the death of a young person. A fourteen inch bronze cart with figures dating from the seventh century B.C. is quite magnificent. It consists of horsemen and walking figurines, some with helmets, some bareheaded. Some of the figures have been painted, but all are naked. There are women in the procession as well and some
wear large hoop earrings and have their hair pulled back in a bun. All are thick and elongated in physique.
Christian influence is not lost in these Celtic dolls as the figures called "Captives of St. Leonard" or "Leonard's Louts"illustrate. These date back to the twelfth century when Leonard was canonized. The Wurdeger family is often connected with superstitions concerning these and owned a knight in armour weighing fourteen Kg. which young boys had to lift to their shoulders then throw to the ground to ensure against illness the following year. This tradition continued until 1904. The Salzburger Museum Carolino Augusteum Spielzegmuseum has an example of the St. Leonard figures. Historians do not know much about St. Leonard. His feast is November 6th and first mention of him appears in an eleventh century life of saints. Leonard is supposed to have founded a monastery at Noblazc, now Saint-Leonard, near Limoges. Also he was a hermit worshipped by the crusaders who named him patron saint of prisoners (Attwater 218).
Later Celtic dolls from the La Tene culture wear Etruscan helmets and have moveable rings in their arms and legs. They appear almost African and some carry pots on their heads. Some of these decorated utensils.
Bavarian villages yielded interesting ritual dolls made of iron, usually roughly forged by the village blacksmith. Men are usually naked and women wear long skirts. Sometimes, the artist denoted sexual features. Some figures were used to ward off pain and were offered in sacred places like the votive dolls mentioned earlier. The Iron Man of Battenviesen is one such figure (Von Boehn 74). He appears to be one of the ancient dolls, but historian Richard Andree later proved that he was a fake, made in the late Middle Ages in the style of the prehistoric figures. One modern ancestor of these ancient talismans, though not a doll technically, is the Oscar figurine. This figure of a man with clasped hands resembles Celtic dolls as well as ancient Egyptian figures of Osiris. Many have personified Oscar and refer to the statuette by the male personal pronoun. He is also sort of a good luck charm like the older figures were and Barbra Streisand addressed him as "Hello, Beautiful!" when she won an academy award for "Hello Dolly!" The little World War II era charm dolls of silver with hands pointing upward called "Thumbs Up" served the same good luck talisman purpose.
Like the Celts, the ancient inhabitants of the Americas were also skilled artisans when it came to making figures of metals.
Gold was abundant in Columbia and Panama, just as it was in Peru and other South American countries. Artisans worked in styles similar to the Peruvian and created as well a method of casting gold over wax forms. One figure cast over wax is a two-dimensional Musica warrior. His body and head consist of crude, triangular shapes with tiny, stick-like arms crossed over the torso. His features are draw with wax thread. Another, three-dimensional figure of a noble is cast from 1.37 pounds of gold. Many of these dolls show a geometrical influence and one talisman is decorated with patterns of dots and lines and may have been meant as a breast ornament. Articulated doll figures of other materials were even more common, and Chapuis, in Automata, writes that these are among the ancestors of the mechanical figures, which will be discussed in Chapters Three and Four. Chapuis pictures one example of a Mexican doll with articulated limbs from an Aztec grave at Teotihuacan, which was near Mexico City (18). Teotihuacan is also the site of the great Aztec pyramids. Chapuis writes that the art of statuary "hade been highly developed among the Aztecs and the Toltecs, as alos among the Mayas further south" (21). Chapuis, Linné, and other experts claim that these articulated figures were not toys, as we might be tempted to believe. Instead, they were part of a ritual that took place one the first day of the third month [of the Aztec calendar] which honored Centeoti, goddess of maize. As part of the ceremeony the figures were probably suspended over the maize filed by a cord (Chapuis 22).
Mexico was not the only country in Ancient America to yield articulated figures and metal dolls. Without a doubt, the most magnificent gold dolls and idols came from Peru. The vast quantities of gold an metals available in Ancient America made objects of these materials a natural tribute. Then, people appreciated the objects for their beauty, not their monetary value. Some of the little dolls decorated temples and others were gifts for favorite courtesans of the ruler, the Inca. Inca temples held niches for all sorts of figures representing people or animals made of gold or silver. Some larger figures served as garden decorations. Royal houses even had realistic gold and silver lizards and mice strategically placed to look alive. The Inca hid many of these treasures from the conquistadors who came looking for riches.
The Moche or Mohica civilization of Peru as famous for its gold work. This pre-Inca culture existed till approximately 600 A.D. They derived their name from the Moche River near the modern city of Trujillo (Newseek 68). Much of the art work was a photographic representation of their life and customs. Moche tombs contained a variety of small, gold objects meant to serve the dead. As with early rulers of Egypt, Moche elite were buried with entire households. Sometimes, those who died before their master were even put into storage until the time when they could be buried with him (Newseek 69). One corpse of a warrior- priest, the Lord of Spain, displayed at a 1993-94 exhibition at UCLA's Fowler Museum of Cultural History, wore a large hold headdress and silver sandals. His heraldic banner is so detailed, that the golden human figures adorning it wear tiny turquoise bead bracelets. Included in his ensemble are a gilded cooper chest piece, nose ornaments made of sheet gold, gold and silver earrings covered with shell and turquoise mosaic figures and other objects of gold, copper, and silver. As late as 1987, grave robbers were still helping themselves to Moche treasures and flooding the black market with them (68). Moche artists were apparently not interested in depicting everyday life for its own sake, but even poor people were buried clutching objects like pottery shards.
The Moche were known to be farmers who grew Maize and other crops and fished for crab. They also traded with the people of what is now Chile for lapis lazuli and other goods. Even 100 years ago, there was interest in their culture for William Randolph Hearst's mother sponsored a dig on a Moche site (68).
The Inca, the best-known of the Peruvian civilizations, were also known for artifacts of precious metals. One small silver doll wears a woven textile blanket and red feather headdress. It was found buried with the body of a mummified royal child. According to one expert, the child was left to die of exposure as a sacrifice. Also buried with him were a variety of small doll figures and other objects. In the author's collection is a tiny imitation gold replica of these figures which is naked except for the small, conical cap on his head. He comes from Chan, the capital city of the Chimu empire in Western South America. The original dates from 1100-1500 A.D. and is in the Peabody Museum. the Inca conquered the Chimu, who were a desert people, in around 1470 A.D. The original doll is not made of gold, but of copper alloy. The reproduction came fastened on a blue card which gives information on the doll and reads at the bottom:
A REPRODUCTION FROM
Young Collectors INCORPORATED
Post Office Box 894
Haverhill, Mass tts 01830.

Another collector wrote the late Janet Johl about a similar doll of brass (Johl SMAD 5).
It is the position of the Peruvian government that artifacts like the gold figures should become state property, but private collectors have the money with which to collect them and to provide proper protection for them, so exceptions are made.
Mexican craftsman in the early -period were also skilled metalworkers. Indeed, their work often rivalled that of European artisans. One example is the fabulous gold bust of the Mixtec god of death. His shoulders have calendarical notation and his elaborate headdress has circular designs. He has a face which resembles a grinning skull. When Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer viewed an exhibit of Middle American gold work in 1520, he said that he had seen nothing in his whole life which so filled his heart with joy. The objects he saw were gifts from the Aztec emperor, Montezuma, to Cortez.
Metal dolls continue to be made in Mexico. Among the most famous are the tiny wire dolls with clay heads representing skeletons which adorn graves during the day of the Dead, November 1st. Also, metal knights and conquistadors are popular. The Yokohama Doll Museum has an interesting Mexican doll dressed as a peasant with a head of metal. The entire doll is made of lead. He is five inches high and is dressed as a gaucho. He wears a white outfit and a gun belt, all of lead. He holds a rifle and stands on a square, metal base. The author has one of these in her collection, which represents a French soldier.
Other countries, too, have ancient dolls of made of various metals. The Wellcome Museum in London has a seven inch doll with a face made of a gold disk. The body is made of fibre decorated with a crisscross of beads with fibre hair. The face has no features. The iron dolls of Zaire date back to several centuries before Christ and are among the spirit dolls of Africa. One has cut-out holes for eyes. These were generally ritual figures belonging to chiefs, not toys. One two-inch brass fetish dates from the 1940's and formed part of a necklace of brass beads. These are still made today and are worn on black leather cords. Particularly popular are miniature Ashanti gods from Ghana. The author has a necklace and a pair of earrings in her collection.
From West Africa come 3 and 3/4 inch bronze figures which may also be fetishes. Benin, formerly Edo, has a tradition of making metal figures utilizing the lost wax method. Benin lies between Nigeria and Bukina Faso. One eleven inch brass doll represents an important tribal personage holding aloft a ceremonial sword. This is a modern example made around the time of World War II and has no marks (Judd 7). Figures like this one, however, have been made for centuries in Benin, which has always had rich deposits of metal resources. Skills are passed from generation to generation, as they are in families of Japanese doll artists. An antique example would cost thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars, according to a recent Antiques Roadshow.
Like many foreign counties, Mexico sells dolls either formed of wire armatures covered with cloth, or wire armature wound with colored yarn. "Worry dolls" from Guatemala are tiny, one inch dolls formed of pieces of wire wrapped in yarn. Most have paper faces, some have clay heads.
India has brass acrobats which balance as well as a variety of costume dolls which consist of wire armatures covered with cloth. Small brass figures of Indian deities, replicas of ancient figures, are currently sold at Pier I Imports.
Japan has heavy metal dolls of women posed in graceful kimonos with the headdresses of fisherwomen. Also, there have been throughout the ages many metal carvings and images made of Buddha throughout Asia. A small brass head of Buddha, about 3 inches high, has holes around the collar/base and is meant to be an incense burner. One cast iron doll from Japan stands 11 inches high and represents a child. Her face is painted in silver paint, the rest of her clothes are painted in gold and silver. She is from the author's collection and was purchased in 1991 in Herrin, IL.
Thailand still exports dolls with cloth bodies and brass heads representing young girls. The little girl's hair is molded as a pompadour and has a sharp object through the bun. The brass is not painted, but is left its natural color. From china come modern dolls made of cloisonne or copper enameling with ivory heads, dating to an ancient tradition.
Articulated dolls or shadow puppets called Wayang Golek come from the Theatre of Java. These are marionettes "operated from below" instead of by strings from above. Chapuis observes that Plato has described tis type of puppet int he seventh book of the Republic (23). Chapuis discusses in his book Automata examples from Paris, the Musée de l'Homme (21). Articulated masks showing Indonesian influence come from Lombok, Dutch East Indies. Articulated dolls of many kinds, often incorporating metal, come from the Bataks of Sumatra (Chapuis 22). The Batak figure has a sponge mechanism in the back of its head that makes it shed tears.
Finally, there are the felt-wrapped wire dolls of Bulgaria which have iron weights in their feet to enable them to stand and masks for faces.
Dolls were scarce during the Middle Ages, but they did exist. In fact, Johl claims that during this time parents blessed dolls before giving them to children (SMAD 19). During Medieval times, dolls of silver and other metals were created for royalty. These may have been baptismal favors. This theory becomes more plausible when one considers the cheaper baptismal dolls of clay which and an indentation in their stomachs for a coin. Thus, it is logical that more expensive dolls would be made entirely of precious metal and would themselves be the offering.
Among Bohemian communities were toys and dolls fashioned like a pair of little silver miners wielding picks. There is a smith from the Medieval period hammering an anvil in the style of Vulcan. These two were probably amusements for rich adults. Doll-like utensils were popular during this era as in the Ancient World. In Dolls and Puppets, Max von Boehn discusses a sixteenth century virgin goblet made of precious metals. She is a full-length figure of a woman with a large hoop skirt. Her arms are upraised to hold a swivelling cup. Similar examples date from Ancient Greece. supposedly, a man first drained the large cup of the figure's skirt and a woman drank from the smaller cup held aloft in the figure's hands. The author's modern, silver-plated example stands ten inches and is elaborately decorated. These figures are also called "brides' cups."
Another goblet of silver made in 1596 represents King Christian IV on horseback. The horse's head was the goblet cover, while his body was the goblet. Cellini created classic gold and silver salt cellars of women during the early Renaissance. Modern metal can openers and cork screws made in human form are the modern versions of these figures. A set of skewers from Greece has a tiny, brass Snake Goddess on the handles. A can opener is made of metal and is shaped like Amalía, the heroine of the Greek War for Independence of the early 1800's.
Silver plated nutcrackers are also made today. Real silver and silver plated ornaments have also made quite a comeback. Among these are figurines of Santas and Angels, many quite detailed and cast in the old way. Other metal ornaments and figures are more modern. Target Stores were selling for Christmas 1998 angels made of silver screening. The wire mesh was folded and twisted into the shape of an angel much the way cornhusk dolls are made. These sold for about $12.99 and were meant to be tree tops. A company in China was promoting angels of about 14 inches made of tin. The head and hands are resin, but the body and wings are made of intricately folded and painted metal. This figure resembles the famous angels that grace the Christmas Tree of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Walmart marketed a metal Santa Claus, about the same height as the metal angel, that appears to be tole painted in dark reds and greens. The face is painted to make the figure look three dimensional.
Créche dolls and figures for churches were made with different metals a well. One of these is the "Golden Madonna" of Essen Cathedral in Germany. She is similar to some Inca work that was cast in metal over some other material because she has a wooden core with a surface covered by hammered gold. The madonna is dressed in flowing robes and holds the infant Jesus in her lap. The apples in her hand are symbolic of the Fall and subsequent Redemption of man. She is thirty-inches high and dates from the tenth century.

Personal adornment often took human form and one pilgrims badge from the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket shows Thomas a bishop riding his horse in triumph. Such doll badges were meant to be worn around the neck or pinned on hats and resemble toy soldiers.
In about 1130, Armenian fire worshipper dolls of bronze crowded corroded miniature iron urns. One figure, probably brass was excavated in Ofello in 1939 (Johl SMAD 3).
It is no surprise to experienced collectors that dolls have often been used for sinister purposes. One of the most infamous and sinister dolls of the Middle Ages was the Iron Maiden of Elizabeth Bathory, the "blood countess" of Hungary. Iron maidens are generally known as instruments of torture that look like life-sized female statues of mummy sarcophagi. Anyone who wishes to see one has only too watch "Addams Family" re-runs. Cousin Ophelia often slept in one. Though they appear harmless, iron maidens have a secret spring device that, when triggered, pierces their victims with deadly spikes (McNally 7-8). Elizabeth's iron maiden was painted to look like a woman and wore real clothes of rich materials. It had flowing human hair attached to its head and wore jewels. The Countess would ask a young victim to polish the jewels on her doll. As the girl worked, her touch triggered a mechanism hidden by one of the jewels that caused the top part of the figure to grab the girl with its arms and clutch her to its chest. She was then stabbed by spikes. Legend has it a German locksmith made one iron maiden for every castle Elizabeth owned. The iron maiden dolls of the Countess gave material to a writer named Bram Stoker who traced the various vampire legends and wrote in 1897, Dracula. Elizabeth herself inspired Andre Codrescu to write the novel, The Blood Countess.
Elizabeth Bathory was an insane noblewoman who believed that if she tortured young girls to death, then drank and bathed in their blood, she would retain her youth and beauty eternally. When her gruesome activities were uncovered, her servants were executed and she was imprisoned for life in her own castle.
Of course, not all dolls of this period are so diabolical. Metals were used to make all sorts of children's toys. Mary I is said to have had a golden cup filled with gold coins on her first Christmas, so perhaps Sir Thomas More had some experience of precious toys when he wrote Utopia. It is, after all, a small step from silver rattles with attached bells that resemble marottes, to dolls. These rattles were popular toys for wealthy children in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Silver doll furniture also graced the baby houses of the rich. The author has seen such furniture as late as 1978 at Shreve, Crump and Low of Boston. One expert also says that silver soldiers and acrobats were famous in the Netherlands during the time of Charles II (Fraser 84). Furthermore, the memoirs of one Herouard, who was the royal doctor to Louis XIII, show that the King had silver toys and dolls. The Pope during this time is supposed to have sent silver toys to the children of the King of Poland. Also, automata of metal were invented and created during the Middle Ages. These will be discussed in further detail in Chapter Three.
Noted author Mary Hillier shows in her book Automata and Mechanical Toys several medieval and Renaissance examples of toys that are made of metal. One beautiful mechanical doll dating from about 1600 plays a lute. Her clothes are detailed and sumptuous, and her face is expressive and dreamy. The doll is, according to Mrs. Hillier, possibly by Gianello della Torre and is from the Vienna, Kunthistorisches Museum. Mrs. Hillier also shows a mechanical rooster of "painted ironwork and gold leaf," from an early clock found on Strasbourg Cathedral, 1354. The rooster is in the Strasbourg Museum. Mrs. Hillier's chapter on clockwork figures is excellent further reading for anyone who would like to know more about the subject of medieval clockwork examples.

4 comments:

  1. We welcome Comments! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  2. What does SMAD stand for? See in reference to Johl...Thanks

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  3. Still More About Dolls, the title of one of her books. Thank you for the comment!

    ReplyDelete