Total Pageviews

Monday, April 30, 2012

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: In Honor of Mary Hillier

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: In Honor of Mary Hillier: The birthday of my friend and noted doll author and historian Mary Palmer Hillier was April 30th. Mary died in 1999, on Valentine's Day at ...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From Laura Starr; Black Dolls as signs for Pawnshops

In Chapter XVII, Starr writes of a shop in London, "A Dolly Shop," which sells, nto dolls, but an unlicensed "apwnshop where old clothes form the principal stock in trade . .. A black doll is always used and some writers contend that this is an image of the black virgins that are common in Catholic countries. " Starr goes on to describe the origins of this type of doll, "In NOrton Falgate . . there was a shop for the sale of toys and rags. One day an old woman brought a large bundle of rags to sell. Shea sekd the proprietor not to open it until she should return and see it weighed As the woman did not return, the budle was opened . . to the ragman's surprise he found ablack doll enatly dressed, wearing a pair of gold earrings. HE hung it over his door that the woman might see it and ocme to claim her porperty" (Starr 176). The woman saw the doll and returned; she settled with the shop owner, but left him the doll to use as a sign. Another legend Starr writes about is that the black doll came about because old clothes were traded to African peoples and tribes. I've seen dolls used as signs in old thrift shops, and in front of a radiator repair shop once. In Carmel, a wooden doll carved as a flapper was used as a sign, and had to be taken down because of an oridnance. The owner then put a $20,000 price tag on the doll; this way, she could use her log. Nuts, if you ask me.

Not Chronological, but Great Lit often is not! Some images of Favorite Black dolls

Perkins booko nt he subject is excellent, as is Laura Starr's. I also bought a book on African Myth that is illustrated by art, including statues and dolls. Max von Boehn and Carl Fox have fantastic examples, as does Loretta Holz in The How to Book of International Dolls. Janet Pagter Johl also has great examples. And, there are Pam and Polly Judd's books. There is a great museum of BLack Dolls in Philly, and a Holiday Festival of Black dolls which used to be sponsored by the Rev. C. Laverne Williams, a lovely lady and gracious hostess. Floyd Bell, Carry Lisle, Shindana Toys, so many other gifted artists create them, too. Finally, the former Me Dolls site had amazing images of all kinds of dolls of color and ehnicity. O. Winfrey supposedly had a big collection, and the late Patrick Kelly, designer, had over 6000. His logo was a tiny black celluloid baby doll, sometimes made into a pin. Bette Davis loved him. Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Figures of the MIddle Ages with Wardrobes from The Doll Book

Starr writes of statutes and figures from the Middle Ages and early Renaissance that were bequeathed jewelry and outfits as part of their adoration. For example, she writes that in 1509, Beatrice Krikemer left her best beads to a Madonna statute in St. Stephens, Norwich, England. Later, Alice Carre bequeathed the statue coral beads, and King Henry II left it an emerald and a ruby.
Above is a photo of Our Lady of Walsingham as she is today. Starr continues with Catherine Hastings, who in 1506 left several items of clothing to a whole series of Madonnas as follows: "to our Lady of Walsingham, my velvet gown; of Doncaster, my tawny camlet gown; of Belcross, my black camlet, and to our Lady of Himmingburgh a piece of cremell and a lace of gold of Venus set with pearl" These are lucky doll figures indeed; they are also historically valuable records of fashion and customs of their day; like fashion dolls, they were adorned with contemporary outfits, not religious garb, though creche figures of the day were dressed in elaborate clothes created by artists and seamstresses.

Mannekin Pis of Brussels

On this St. George's Day, the anniversary of the death's of Cervantes, Shakespeare and Joyce, I would like to write about Mannekin Pis of Brussels, or the "famous mannikin of Brussels, Belgium" as Laura Starr calls him in her excellent The Doll Book (1908). Starr writes that the mannikin was created by a sculptor named Duquesnoy to honor the victory of Ransbeck. When star was writing the little statute was nearly 300 years old, and even then, he had a wardrobe. As happens with other statues and talismans, the mannikin has been carried off and has traveled. Gnomes have nothing over him. The English took him to Britian after the Battle of Fonteony, according to Starr, but the people of Belgium took him back. The French also stole him, but they, too brought him back. There is a story from 1817 associated with him as well. A convict took him and Bruseels went into mourning for their most famous and cherished citizen. It was found and recovered, however, and the thief had to go to the pillory. According to Starr, an iron railing has been placed around the little boy ever since. Starr delicately neglects to tell us that the statue of the little boy is, of course, relieving himself, hence his name. Many honors have been conferred on him as well, including one by Archduke Maximilian whom star writes actually gave him expensive clothing and a servant! Starr goes on to say tat "Louis XV made him a knight of his order, and, later on, Joseph II, of Austria, conferred on him the same honor. In 1908, Mannekin Pis was dressed in the robes of the Louis XV order, and similar outfits exist today. Rick Steves featured the statute on one of his TV shows, as well as the museum that houses his many outfits, one of which is shown here. The little boy is a cultural icon the world over, and he is reproduced in miniature as keychains, chocolate pops, lawn ornaments, jewelry, etc. My father-in-law has a fountain of him, and I have a tiny metal corkscrew, one of my more unusal portrait "dolls" done in metal, this time bronze.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: McKim Studios and Kimport Dolls

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: McKim Studios and Kimport Dolls: Below is a biograpy of Ruby Short McKim, which I am posting after meeting her wonderful granddaughter Merrily. I saw a program given by Me...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Top Ten

Those who know Theriault’s, know that we don’t collect dolls. Not that we don’t love them, for how else could we be so deeply involved every single day in the world of dolls. But because we believe it would be a conflict of interest in serving our selling and buying clientele.

But – one can still imagine, one can still dream. And, so, here then are my top ten (okay, eleven, I couldn’t cut it down any further) picks from De Kleine Wereld Museum of Dolls and Dollhouses, coming up for auction this Sunday, April 1st at the Westin Market Street in San Francisco. “If I collected” these wonderful things would come to live in my home, or at least I’d make a try to win them.

They’re not in any particular order of favorites, and not necessarily the most expensive or the rarest, just some wonderful things that “spoke to me”.



Catalog #1. The Early Parfumerie. So dainty in size and so luminous in its presentation. The stair-step displays, the gilt-paper framed mirrors on the unusually-angled back, the rich cobalt blue all enhance the miniature perfume bottles and toiletries.

Catalog #16. The Chinese Tea Shop. It was love at first sight for me, and then I looked further and it got even better. Every niche and cranny of the shop is filled with rare tea tin canisters (there are 26!). The lacquered wall, floor and cabinet finish enhances the rich colors as do the brass-framed display windows. You could study this shop for hours and still see different and wonderful things.

Catalog #28. The Shoe Store. Every one of those little boxes has a pair of shoes, and that’s not to mention the extra shoes on display. The oval counter is very rare, and I really love the luxury green velvet chairs and the impossibly-rare slanted foot stools for trying on shoes. What a treasure!

Catalog #55. “Les Modes Parisienne” Millinery Shop by Christian Hacker. It’s difficult to say what I love most about this shop. Is it the wonderful original paint and stenciled decorations, the display window curtains that open and close (visible from the “street front”), the fact that it has original display legs, or is it the mystery of the store sign “Les Modes Parisienne, rue Bergere 20, Paris” which was the address of one of the most prominent Parisian fashion journals of the mid-19th century. Was this store commissioned by them as a promotional object? A beautiful store, a great rarity, a wonderful mystery.
Catalog #65. Well-Laden German Wooden Kitchen Cabinet. Designed for a child, yet perfect for doll display, the cabinet is abundantly laden with kitchenware and supplies, beginning with a large claw-foot tin stove and including numerous blue and white porcelain cooking supplies and dishes such as pie-crimper, sieves, ladle and rolling pin, a rare lithographed tin grocery list and much much more. An extraordinary child play object that I have never seen before.
Catalog #86. Beautiful and Rare Petite French Poupee with Sculpted Hair, with Two Early Chairs. From the kitchen to an elegant salon, I will admit that my tastes vary greatly. This dainty petite French bisque poupee in original lace gown over rose twill under-gown is offered along with her two early brass-framed chairs with original silk embroidered upholstery. I have a sense of tranquility just looking at these.
Catalog #88. Very Rare Late-19th Century Miniature Art Nouveau Jardiniere. The second I spotted the jardinière – just 8” tall – in the museum, I fell in love. Classically Art Nouveau, and of luxury-quality workmanship, it is doll room accessory, par excellence. Again, I have never seen another.
Catalog #123. French All-Bisque Mignonette with Painted Brown Boots in Wicker Egg Presentation. If you are the lucky winner of this all-bisque mignonette with rare brown ankle boots, original wig and antique silk costume, you can decide to let her live in her wicker egg presentation basket – or come out to play with your other mignonettes. Whichever you decide, she will be the star of your little ones.
Catalog #210. Fine Early Wooden Sleigh of Northern Netherlands with Oil-Painted Scenes. The coachman stood at the back platform with studded brass foot plates and blue velvet cushion, while a precious child (undoubtedly a princess) rode within. A carved wooden lion led the sleigh, and painted scenes decorated each side. The sleigh is only 13”l. and a superbly-crafted toy, indeed fit for the play of a real princess as it may well have been.
Catalog #315. Very Fine French Wooden Doll Bed with Silk Curtains. Look closely at the bed, made of finest walnut with well-chosen grains, and decorated with a bronze garland at the foot. The bed is fitted with soft emerald green silk covers and canopy curtains, edged with pale mauve velvet bands. I imagine a French bisque poupee or early wooden or china doll posed alongside.
Catalog #332. 19th Century Doll's Recamier with Original Tufted Upholstery. I call this a Recamier in honor of its French heritage. But you can name it a fainting couch, if you prefer. Its elegant lines are emphasized by the depth of the tufting on the original royal purple silk upholstery, faded just enough to inspire sentiment. Braided cording adds detail, and “if I collected”, the Recamier would have a place of honor with one of my favorite dolls.

Have you chosen your favorites? Even if you’re not planning to bid, it’s always wise to dream. Take some time, click here and browse through the De Kleine Wereld auction catalog. I’d love to hear about your favorites. You can email me at florence@theriaults.com and share your thoughts.

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Auctions featuring Steiner

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Auctions featuring Steiner: Years ago, I used to correspond via email with Florence Theriault. I love their auction catalogs, and their write-ups. I am posting a coup...

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Paper Dolls

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Paper Dolls: OPDAG http://www.opdag.com/convention.html Information for 2012 paper doll collection and, along with Marilee's Paper Doll Page, a great p...

DAMA DE IBIZA.Museo Arqueológico de Madrid.La Dama de Ibiza es una figura de arcilla de 47 centímetros de altura que data del siglo III a. C. Fue encontrada en la necrópolis situada en el Puig des Molins en la isla de Ibiza, en el Mediterráneo. Está realizada a molde y tiene una cavidad en su parte posterior, característica que comparte con todas las demas "damas" encontradas, y que se especula qu...e serviría para guardar reliquias, ofrendas o cenizas funerarias. Se trata de la representación de una diosa cartaginesa, seguramente Tanit, relacionada con la diosa fenicia Astarté. Presenta una ornamentación muy rica en su vestuario lo mismo que en las joyas.
La mayoría de las figuras encontradas en la necrópolis de Puig des Molins son representaciones de diosas, casi siempre de arte griego porque según se cree hubo a lo largo de los siglos una gran aportación étnica desde la Magna Grecia (nombre que se dio en la Antigüedad a las colonias griegas del sur de Italia).
Se encuentra expuesta en el Museo Arqueológico de Madrid.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Article on Ann Sharp's House

Ann Sharp’s famous dollhouse

Princess Anne, later to become Queen, thoughtfully presented her goddaughter Ann Sharp with a Baby House dollhouse that was preserved with great care because of its royal connexion and which now survives as the earliest recorded British dollhouse. Ann Sharp was born in 1691, one of the fourteen children of John, Archibishop of York – the high mortality rate of the period is chillingly illustrated by the fact that only four of these children survived their parents. It is paradoxical that this crudely made box like house with its very basic furniture should be the only model that can be positively associated with the monarch whose name is so often used in conjunction with any well made house in the style sloppily termed ‘Queen Anne’.

The first impression of this house is immediately reminiscent of the Nuremberg cabinets, as the basic construction exhibits nothing of the skilled carpentry associated with the better Baby Houses, the box like rooms have no skirting boards or picture rails and the cornicing is of the most basic type. The chimneypieces were utlized from sections of cheap picture moulding, some being positioned on the back walls and others in corners. The firebaskets also show casual improvisation, as they are made with backs of playing cards and roughly cut tin bars. The model stands 5 feet 10 inches high, so that an adult cannot see over the top, and this size also reminds the viewer of the German models. The rooms themselves are also deep and dark and as it is unlikely that this was the only house made at the time, it seems possible that very early houses were constructed in a similar way in both Britain and Germany.

The survival of the house from Ann’s childhood is due largely to the fact that she retained her interest long after her marriage at the age of twenty one to the Dean of Ripon. Its connexion with Queen Anne could not be forgotten, as her portrait, painted on the back of a playing card, hangs in the house as a constant reminder of the royal origin. Generations of the family have treasured the house, and it is now seen surrounded by the metal and plastic toys of the new generation but overlooked by a portrait of Ann Sharp attributed to Jonathan Richardson.

Her baby house was one of the few that were highly regarded in the 19th century and one of the earliest published descriptions appeared in an issue of ‘Aunt Judy’s magazine’ in 1870. Since that time the dollhouse has stood as the starting point for any investigation of the Baby House, as it contrasts so interestingly with the more sophisticated versions. It’s interesting to compare historical dollhouses with modern ones. For the KidKraft Annabelle Dollhouse Click here, the KidKraft Savannah Dollhouse Click here and the KidKraft Majestic Mansion Dollhouse 65252 Click here

More Flora Gill Jacobs History

Flora Gill Jacobs to Close Washington Dolls' House & Toy Museum

by Lita Solis-Cohen

In A History of Doll Houses (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953), Flora Gill Jacobs, the pioneer writer about dollhouses, explained that in 1950 "an authority on antiques apologized in a magazine article for having credited the origin of the rocking chair to colonial America in the mid-eighteenth century." A toy rocker had been found in a plague pit near London in the company of other items from the reign of Charles I, which placed the rocker's beginning in England in the mid-17th century.

Jacobs's 1974 book Dolls' Houses in America (Charles Scribner's Sons) is subtitled Historic Preservation in Miniature. In the introduction she noted, "With the buildings of the past going down like tenpins, and the wrecker's ball frequently sending landmarks to oblivion despite the assiduous efforts of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and smaller, local groups struggling to preserve them; with atrocities committed again and again in the name of urban renewal, and the flavor of the past, its variety and vitality, being snuffed out like so many gas-lamps at dawn on a Victorian lane, the preservation of old dolls' houses has become considerably more than a footnote to the architecture and furnishings of days gone by."

Flora Gill Jacobs not only wrote the first history of dollhouses (the book celebrated its golden anniversary last year), but in 1975 she founded the Washington Dolls' House & Toy Museum, which became a model for a number of dollhouse museums throughout America.

At 85, faced with high costs and advancing years, Jacobs will close her museum in Washington, D.C., on May 1 and put almost the entire museum collection on the auction block. Carversville, Pennsylvania, auctioneer Noel Barrett will mastermind the sale on June 19 at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, Maryland, two miles from the museum. The preview will be at the museum, and nothing will be moved until actually sold. The sale will be conducted with video images of the items.

Barrett said that the only important dollhouse Jacobs is keeping is the first one she bought, known as the "South Jersey house," an 1870's mansion that has become the logo for the museum.

Flora Gill Jacobs began collecting in 1945, and, encouraged by her husband, Ephraim, she upgraded and added to her collection constantly. When her collection outgrew her house she opened the museum in order to share it with more people. "She always said the chicken came before the egg because she wrote about dollhouses before she began buying them," Barrett recounted. "She collected only antique dollhouses. The latest dollhouse in the museum was built in 1932."

The sale will be a landmark, with 35 dollhouses; 45 other buildings such as stables, bakeries, kitchens, and shops; 100 dolls, miniature and full-size; and an additional 200 toys and miniatures, including a Schoenhut circus and a Schoenhut Teddy Roosevelt safari set.

The dollhouses will include a seaside hotel from 1903 and a set of houses grouped together as "Bliss Street," named for the Rhode Island dollhouse maker R. Bliss Manufacturing Co., known for its paper lithographed Victorian gingerbread Lilliputian architecture. One of the most elaborate houses in her auction is a two-story Mexican villa complete with an elevator, a roof garden, an aviary, awnings at the windows, and a tile-paved gated carport. It could bring more than $50,000.

"The houses Flora bought furnished will be sold as she got them, and some of the houses she furnished herself will be also sold furnished even though they might bring more if the furnishings were sold piece by piece," said Barrett. A few of the houses will be sold empty and the furniture sold separately. For example, a Tynietoy Mansion will be sold unfurnished and each of the room settings will be sold as a separate lot. A "mystery house" furnished with an array of early German-made furniture by makers such as Märklin and Rock & Graner will be sold as single lots of furniture or suites of furniture. Jacobs coined the term "mystery house" for a series of houses that were sold by F.A.O. Schwarz in the late 19th century; no one has yet determined who made them.

"It breaks my heart to sell the ones I furnished myself," said Jacobs in a phone interview. "There are pieces in them I will never see again." Jacobs, who has been collecting for 60 years, added, "I went to shows before there was a line at the door, but would you believe I have never been to a toy or doll auction, and now I am having my own?"

With word of the sale out collectors have been beating a path for a last look at the Washington Dolls' House & Toy Museum, 5236 44th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $2 for children under 12. Call (202) 363-6400 or see the Web site (www.dollshousemuseum.com). The museum will close its doors on May 1 and reopen for the auction preview, June 15 through June 18. Admission to the sale and preview is by catalog only. Catalogs are $35 and admit two people. For more information, call Noel Barrett at (215) 297-5109 or visit (www.noelbarrett.com).

Flora Gill Jacobs Obituary

See below, I had another source that said she was 93:



June 12, 2006
Flora Gill Jacobs, 87, Who Opened Dollhouse Museum, Dies By MARGALIT FOX
Flora Gill Jacobs, an internationally recognized authority on dollhouses who spent her adult life blissfully awash in minutiae, including tiny, lavishly appointed mansions and an ornate Mexican villa that came with its own chapel (very small priest included), died on May 31 in Washington. She was 87 and lived in Chevy Chase, Md.

The cause was congestive heart failure, her family said.



For many years, Ms. Jacobs presided over the Washington Dolls' House and Toy Museum, which she founded in 1975 and ran for nearly three decades, usually at a loss. Her work there, and her writings, were credited with creating interest in dollhouse collecting in the United States in the second half of the 20th century.

While there are many museums of dolls in this country, Ms. Jacobs's, a result of six decades of ardent collecting, was believed to be the first here devoted primarily to dolls' homes. In its heyday, it attracted more than 20,000 visitors annually, most of them adults.


Six days a week, Ms. Jacobs went to the museum to fuss, dust and instruct. As she told The Washington Post in 1988, "I hardly ever go out into the life-size world."

She closed the museum in 2004, citing rising costs and advancing age.

A newspaperwoman by training, Ms. Jacobs wrote many highly regarded books on dollhouses, among them "A History of Dolls' Houses: Four Centuries of the Domestic World in Miniature" (Scribner, 1953); "Dolls' Houses in America: Historic Preservation in Miniature" (Scribner, 1974); and, most recently, "The Small World of Antique Dolls' Houses" (Lake Isle Press, 2005).

The first known dollhouse was made in the mid-16th century, and since then dolls' houses have inflamed the acquisitive passions of generations of collectors. A dollhouse lets its owner preside over a miniature cosmos. It affords control, or at least the illusion of it, in a disorderly world. One can make all the aesthetic decisions, and do all the wiring, without ever having to argue with contractors.

The finest dollhouses have electric lights that turn on; running water (cold, usually); libraries with tiny printed books that can be taken down and read; and kitchen stoves that can be fired up. They can contain ornate chandeliers; scaled-down fine furniture; minute sterling tea sets; and little household pets, often made from fur-coat scraps.

For Ms. Jacobs, the attraction went beyond even these things. To her, an antique dollhouse was social history in microcosm, offering a meticulous record of the architecture and decorative arts of its era. And today, with many real historic buildings falling to the wrecker's ball, dollhouses, as she often said, offer a small way of preserving the past.

Flora Gill was born in Washington on Dec. 22, 1918. Growing up, she did not have a dollhouse, but the girl next door did — a magnificent one that her father, a soldier in World War I, had brought back from Germany.

While Flora was still a student at George Washington University, she wrote film reviews for the old Washington Times-Herald. She left college for a job on the paper, eventually becoming the fashion editor. She later went to work as a reporter for The Washington Post, where she was assigned to the women's page.

In 1940, she married Ephraim Jacobs. He survives her, along with their daughter, Amanda, of Centreville, Md.

Leaving The Post after several years, Ms. Jacobs decided to write a book about dollhouses and, not long afterward, decided she had better own one. She bought her first from a New Jersey antiques shop in 1945. A derelict post-Civil War sandstone with a mansard roof, it cost $35.

At the time, dollhouses were unfashionable things in the world of collectibles. "Most antiques dealers didn't even know what I was talking about," Ms. Jacobs told The Washington Times in 1999. "One thought I was looking for doghouses."

As her collection grew, friends clamored to see it. So did friends of friends. Brownie troops trooped through. Eventually, Ms. Jacobs's houses outgrew Ms. Jacobs's house. She rented a small building in northwest Washington, and the museum was born.

Comprising about 40 dollhouses from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, the museum's collection focused on Victoriana. The star attraction was the multistory Mexican villa, built circa 1890. Besides the chapel, it had roof gardens, an aviary, a working elevator and a gated driveway with a vintage Paige touring car.

Among the other miniature buildings on display were a dentist's office, a milliner's shop and a seaside hotel. There was a tiny circus and a tableau of Teddy Roosevelt on safari in Africa that featured porters, a naturalist and a menagerie that, somewhat incongruously, included a kangaroo.

Ms. Jacobs, who lectured throughout the world on dollhouse history, also wrote several children's books inspired by her work, among them "The Doll House Mystery" (Coward-McCann, 1958) and "The Toy Shop Mystery" (Coward-McCann, 1960).

In May 2004, the contents of the museum were sold at auction for about $1.4 million. The Mexican villa alone brought $231,000, said Noel Barrett, a dealer in antique toys who handled the sale.

It was hard for Ms. Jacobs to see her dollhouses go, but she had ample consolation at home. There, she had a collection as big as — by some accounts bigger than — the one at the museum.

Baby Houses and Flora Gill Jacobs; Ann Sharp's Baby House

I recently was able to reread Jacobs smaller classic History of Doll Houses, and was struck with the history incorporated in such a tiny volume. The book is about nin inches high, and is done in black and white. This is my second copy, but still retains the dust cover. Jacobs was curator of the Washington Doll House Museum for many years, till about the time she died at age 93 several years ago. She has written larger, color volumes about dolls and doll houses, and they are excellent histories as well. I missed out on one of these at a library sale; an older gentleman was buying it for fifty cents just as I walked in. Bad karma that day.

According to Jacobs, miniature rooms, complete with furnishings and little dolls have been found in Egyptian tombs. Tiny pieces of doll furniture and accessories have been traced to Greece and Rome, so she speculates there must have been tiny house at some point, too.

The fantastic Baby houses of Cabinets of the 17th century are legendary, and the tiny, hallmarked treasures of silver, copper, pewter, even gold, are works of arts in themselves with scores of collectors devoted to them. There are amazing books on miniature silver, alone. Some of these crossover as cabinets of curiosities, and I recommend Cabinets of Curiosites, reviewed on my Memoir and Pym/Bronte Blogs, as well.

Jacobs notes that the first doll house of the type we might be familiar with dates to about 1580, but of course, miniature soldiers and other tiny books and objects are old than that.

She writes the best history of Ann Sharp's Baby House, c. 1691, of anything I've seen. I can't even find a lot of information about the web about it. This house was given by Queen Anne to her godddaughter Ann Sharp. In 1967, when Jacobs wrote the house was pretty much as little Ann left it, nearly 300 years before.

The inhabitants wear name tags, and are precious Queen Anne wooden dolls, and dolls of wax. They are colorful and beautifully dressed, pink and pastels being preominant colors per Jacobs' description. Little girls then must have loved the same color schemes as now.

There are 9 rooms, with a top shelp that held gloves and shoes and other small objects belonging to Ann herself. There are tiny silver pieces and warming pans, a dog-turned spit in the kitchen, though dogs were missing, complete linens, wall paper, inlaid cradles, beds, you name it. It is a study of late 17th century life. The dollhouse is important as a time capsule, but also as proof that these elaborate objects were also toys. Then, as now, there are dollhouses meant to be played with, and others that were collectors items.

Sorry for typos; I don't have spell-check, and my right hand is swelling badly again. Yet, this is my stress relief, and it has been a horrendous week. Working again on final corrections for my book on metal dolls and a novel about to go to the publisher.

Bad bouts of pneumonia-like respiratory ailments have hit me repeatedly, but seem to be gone now!

Went to a train show last weekend, and was struck again by the universal love of miniatures, and of how well trains and models work with doll and miniature collections. Even architechtual models are great. I found many tiny N and HO scale people, and a 5 in. long silver train with working parts and incredible detail for only 5.00. I had similar luck at the Garden show, where I bought miniatures and out door furniture and live plants to create my mini gardens and terrariums.

More about doll houses later, and we will soon progress to dolls of the 18th century.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

More General History of Ancient Dolls; From one of my Forthcoming Books

The Goddess Figures and Ancient Dolls


No one could possibly know who made the first doll. As many have speculated before me, perhaps someone was walking along and found a root, a stick, a rock or piece of bone that looked like a human figure or face. From then on, human imagination took over, and primitive artists began to enhance the shapes they found into the first dolls, the Venus of Willendorf figures also called The Goddess Figures. There are modern artists who still make dolls and figurines this way; they pick up a found object and "read" its personality before enhancing it into a doll. And, dolls have been made from mandrake root for centuries because it resembles the human body. I have even seen ginseng root dolls created from natural roots in San Francisco. By the same token, the loess dolls or Losskindel dolls are made of loam found in Loess, and the loam often appears to assume human form. In von Boehn's time, the Strasbourg museum had examples of these (25). As von Boehn has noted when commenting on the views of one Ernst Vatter and others, "If the genesis of the doll is sought for it will be found . . . in a quality, which is shared alike by primitive races and by children--namely, the ability to discern human and animal forms in a all sorts of freaks of nature" (24). In other words, primitive people and children saw human and animal figures in rocks, horns, bones, branches, and roots. And, who among us has not looked at the clouds and seen shapes and figures of all kinds. I supposed the Rorschach inkblot test might work on the same principle, but so does abstract art of all kinds. If anything, some experts argue that the shape of certain "figure stones" suggested the subject because of their very shape to Neolithic sculptures.

Whoever that first Neolithic artists was, however, s/he started something that will never die, and doll making was born. In a tradition that is similar to many other religion including the Old Testament, the first dolls had no faces. They represented Mother Earth, and even then, it was taboo, apparently, to practice idolatry, or to look upon the face of God, whoever God might be. There is one very rare example with a scratched on face that is supposed to exist; Jean Auel writes about it in her Clan of the Cave Bear books (The Earth's Children Series), but I have not read of it anywhere else. The little Venus figures come from the Ice Age. They date to the Quaternary period, with a civilization called Aurignacian. These people lived in the first half of the fourth Ice Age. These limestone Venuses continued to be made through the Solutarian through Magdaleneian period, or about 30,000 to 50,000 years ago.

The Venus of Willendorf hails form the Willendorf culture, near Krems, on the Danube River. She is only 11cm high. Von Boehn postulates that the little figure was originally painted red. He believes other figures might have been painted as well. These are the oldest sculptures of the human figure, and the first doll. They are obese, and appear to celebrate fertility. Many believe that the figures were obese for other reasons, too. These scholars believe men preferred heavier woman, because many other statues similar to the Venus figures have appeared that also represent rotund women (29). Von Boehn presents figures from the late Neolithic period that are tattooed, and these are from Rumania.

Another example is much later than the other prehistoric figures. Dennis Michael Morrison, who calls himself an amateur archaeologist, unearthed a potter doll face from the Late Woodland Period, 600 A.D. The piece ids clearly a rough profile of a human face, with wide eyes and a protruding nose. Morrison writes that he has excavated many china dolls from the 1850's, but that the face he found in the fall of 1988 was his first prehistoric doll find (32). The face was found in near Lake Huron, in Northeast Michigan. Morrison implies that his face was a toy, because it was found with the remnants of at least ten pots that "would be considered children's" and dozens more that were very small in size (32). Of course, the pots associated with children could have been educational or ritual items, and the other small pots could have contained cosmetics or medicine. Or, they could have been toys. It will be hard for us to know. Morrison does say, however, that archaeologists he consulted him told him that a miniature port no more than 1/4 inch in height, was indeed a toy.

Morrison found the little face buried with a crude stone drill and a pottery shard, and he believes that the drill, or one like it, made the dolls face. I can imagine his excitement. I was nearly as thrilled myself when a dear friend sent me a tiny, Neolithic axe that she found on her property. On closer inspection, what appears to be a crude piece of rock or dirt is really an intricate object or tool used by someone before the dawn of time to go about his or her daily business.


More idols of the type von Boehn discusses appeared in the late Stone Age, for about 200 years. These were found in Europe, From Southern Russia, to span, through Moravia and Silesia. Others appeared in Serbia, Bosnia, and Bulgaria (Note that maps in the 199's have reverted back to the configurations and countries von Boehn discussed in the 1920's and earlier). These figures have faces, though their faces are very crude. Their noses do indeed resemble the beaks of birds, and they are nearly always female. They are clay, and naked. Their arms are also stumps, as in the earlier Willendorf figures. Marble
Figures resembling "bird women" have been found in the ruins of Troy (von Boehn 19-23).