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Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Recap of Doll History before we continue with the late 19th and early 20th Centuries

Dolls have told the story of humanity since the dawn of time. Early dolls were probably religious figures and were made from clay, bone, stone, fur, or wood. The earliest rag doll we know of came from Egypt, and is over 2000 years old. she now lives in The British Museum. Dolls that have survived from the Stone Age are the oldest we know of; these are the Venus or Goddess figures, and date between 20,000 and 40,000 years old. From Babylon comes a fragment of an alabaster doll with movable arms. Other ancient dolls come from Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Asia. Wooden paddle dolls painted with various designs and with "hair" made of strings of clay or wooden beads, come from Egyptian graves dating back to 2000 BC. It used to be taken for granted that these were dolls. The designs and hieroglyphics on them have made some archaeologists think again. My theory is that the messages on the doll may have been educational, something like our modern board books, or the colonial hornbooks that taught children. Egyptian tombs of wealthy families have included pottery dolls and the aforementioned rag doll, as well as dolls of bone. Ushabti abound in tombs, and some of these are made of precious metals. Some dolls placed in graves may have been favorite possessions, but others are talismans, or like the Ushabti, they took the place of human beings once sacrificed and buried with the royal personage to serve him/her in the next world. The little doll figures took the humans' places, and were said to rise in The Afterworld to serve their masters. The same theory is behind the life sized soldiers in the Chinese emperor's tomb. Dolls have been found by archeologists buried in Greek and Roman children's graves. Girls from Greece and Rome dedicated their wooden dolls to goddesses like Diana after when they were to be married. Sappho, the great poet, left a fragment of verse where she dedicated her doll to Aphrodite, and asked the Goddess not to despise her doll's little purple kerchief. In the Middle Ages and after, Europe was the hub for doll manufacturing. There are woodcuts dating from the late 1400s that show Dollmakers at work. . Primarily made of wood, often with no legs, these stump dolls from 16th and 17th century England are few in number today. In her books, Antonia Fraser shows one that belonged to Alycia Boleyn, niece of Anne Boleyn, tragic second queen of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I. She shows another wooden doll dating from the late 16th century that is all carved. Germany produced many peg wooden dolls, and wooden dolls elaborately dressed were made for the 17th English Bartholomew Faire and were called Bartholomew Babies. English Queen Anne and Georgian dolls were made during the late and very early 19th centuries. By the 1800s, composition , a mixture of pulped wood or paper and glue was used to make doll heads and bodies. A variation of this is papier mache, that uses more shredded paper than sawdust. Molded under pressure, composition cracked, and papier mache could be crushed, but the dolls created were durable dolls that could be mass produced. Wax dolls were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, maybe because waxwork attractions like those of Mme. Tussaud were wildly popular, too. Germany was a major manufacturing center for wax dolls, but so was The Netherlands. Some of the most distinctive wax dolls were created in England between 1850 and 1930 by families that came from Mexico and Italy. A famous female anatomist and sculptor named Morendi was making lifelike models for anatomical study during this time. In skill, she rivaled Mme. Tussaud herself. One of the first baby dolls was made of wax, as were many Santos and church figures. I have one of these 18th century wax dolls in my collection. Porcelain clay was used to make dolls by around 1840, though glazed china or porcelain figurines date to the 17th century. Some of these are made of glazed terracotta clay, not white kaolin porcelain. True white porcelain dates to Ancient China and Japan, though it was not always used for dolls or figurines. The oldest ceramic figure in existence is a Czech Venus figure from about 25,000 B.C. became popular at the beginning of the 19th century. China is glazed, but bisque is unglazed. Germany, France, and Denmark made china heads for dolls in the 1840s. There may have been one billion of them made in Germany alone. French and German bisque dolls were popular during the 19th and early 30th century. Bisque collectors dolls, both artist and reproduction, have enjoyed a Renaissance since the 1940s. They were very plentiful during the late 80s and 90s. The French "bebe" was popular in the 1880s. French Fashion dolls representing adult women were popular between about 1850 and 1880. German bisque dolls became popular, though German companies first made heads and parts for French manufacturers. Some were not as expensive as German dolls, but some German dolls were made for the French market. . Kamner & Reinhardt made one of the first bisque character doll in the 1900s, starting a trend of creating realistic dolls. Rag and cloth dolls were often made at home, and have survived since 2000 B.C., though more dolls made of cloth, fur, and skin probably existed, but did not survive in damp climates. After the Civil War in the 1860, American doll makers began to create, including Izannah Walker, Greiner, Arnold Print Works, Franklin Darrow, Joel Ellis, and others.. Celluloid was actually invented in New Jersey in the late 1860s and was used to manufacture dolls until the mid-1950s and later. Some celluloid dolls are reproduced today by Petitcolin in France. German, French, American, and Japanese factories made them. After World War II, hard plastic dolls, then vinyl dolls, were manufactured. In the early 1970s, Pat Smith wrote the first of her series of books on Modern Dolls, and many vinyl and hard plastic dolls became as popular as many antiques, especially those by Madame Alexander and Vogue. Paper dolls have existed since ancient times, as have puppets and some automata. Folk dolls have always represented the arts of those who made them, and costume dolls often show us how lost civilizations dressed. Today, there are virtual dolls, paper dolls, computer shipped animatronic dolls, foreign dolls, animals dolls, you name it. Collectors for all of these and more abound, and the love affair continues.

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