What is a Doll?

How long have we had this love affair with Dolls?

Pearls of Wisdom:

New World Dictionary describes a doll as - "a child's toy, puppet, marionette, etc. made to resemble a human being."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grodner Tal, "Tuck Comb," Peg Wooden Dolls

From the home industry of the Groden Valley, Grodner Tal and South Tyrol, came the little peg wooden dolls. These are some of the oldest surviving dolls. Although the term peg-wooden refers to a jointing technique the term came to be synonymous with lathe turned dolls from these areas of the Alps. They were the inexpensive play dolls of generations in both Europe and America.
Most of the dolls had combs carved into their heads-hence the term Tuck Combs. Their heads and bodies were lathe turned as one piece and had simple peg joints, but the larger dolls had ball joints and even swivel waists. They had elongated graceful proportions, nicely carved details, painted slippers and sometimes with wood pendant earrings.
The hair is usually painted with curled bangs. Once painted and varnished they were ready for whatever adventures their little owners could conjure up. They are often referred to as German Tuck Combs, probably because they were sold in the German Nuremberg Toy Market, and sometimes incorrectly they are called Dutch dolls but this was a mispronunciation of the word Deutsch.

Very early Grodner Tal grouping, ca. 1830's

Wooden Dolls from the First and Second Empire. Notice, sitted in the armchair, a Grödner Tal. She is the oldest doll of the Museum.."Musee de la Poupee de Paris"

Princess Victoria Age Four, by William Fowler

The lonely little princess Victoria played with dolls until, at fourteen, she had to put away childish things to prepare for the heavy responsibilities of her future. Everyone of her 132 dolls were wooden dolls of this same type, differing only in size from 3 to 9 inches.

The book “Queen Victoria’s Dolls “ describes them: “There is the queerest mixture of infancy and matronliness in their little wooden faces, due to the combination of small sharp nose and bright vermillion cheeks; With broad placid brows, over which, neatly parted at each temple, are painted elaborate, elderly grayish curl. The remainder of the hair is coal black and relieved by a tiny yellow comb perched upon the back of the head.”
All dolls were dressed by the princess and her governess, Baroness Lehzen. Costumed with minute attention to detail. It is probably the most famous collection of dolls in the world.

Princess Victoria, Age Nine, "In a Landscape" Stephen Smith

Early Grodner Tal dolls have more carved details and a fashionable elongated style and a very pointy chin.

This wooden doll from the Grodner Tal of Bavaria dates from the 1820s. Her carved hair has the classic tuck comb. Unlike most tuck combs which are painted yellow this one is painted gold. She also has many painted curls. She is unique with her original earrings and necklace. Her body is peg wooden with ball jointed hips. Note the peg jointing of the shoulders allowing movement in two planes without a ball joint. Her early cotton gown has the characteristic V bodice of this time period. She is 12 inches tall.
C. 1840's Grodner Tal Peg Wooden.

The slim waisted Grodnertals with their haughty faces and elegant air were the last of the quality wooden dolls produced in Europe.
Unfortunately the doll quality rapidly degraded into mass-produced dolls with quickly carved minimal details. They no longer resembled ladies, their bodies now were skittle shaped with flat backs, the arms show no shape being merely a stick with pink paint. But in the treatment of the head, is were the greatest difference between the Grodnertals and the newer versions lies.
The latter have simple round heads with the hair painted on, whereas the earlier dolls had hairstyles that involved carving and ornamentation.
Today there is a strong stigma against wood dolls in this region. Generally wood dolls are only seen as cheap souvenirs and now is almost an insult to ask a talented Groden Valley carver to create a wood doll. Today the serious carvers in this region devote their efforts to their famous religious sculptures.

By the 1830s a new type of material was used to make dolls, glazed porcelain. The factories of KPM in Meissen and Berlin, as well as Royal Copenhagen in Denmark and Rorstrand in Sweden, made china dolls that have been unrivaled. The growing middle class and upper class market for dolls shifted from the decreasing quality of the wooden dolls to the “new and improved” china dolls created in other parts of the world now available to a larger market due to the improved communication and transportation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Biedermeier Period 1820-1836

The Biedermeier era refers to the historical period between the years 1815 (Congress of Vienna) the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and 1848, the year of the European Revolutions. Although the term itself is a historical reference, it is currently used to denote the artistic styles that flourished and that marked a contrast with the Romantic era which preceded it mainly in the fields of literature, music, the visual arts and interior design.

Through out history dolls mirrored the time they were created in, their attire reflected well the haute couture of the era, and with the specially prepared plaster moulds, it made it much easier to design and create the doll’s heads with a variety of intricate hairstyles.

Brown was the color most commonly used on the dolls’ hair until 1820’s, and later black was preferred. A combination of real hair and modeled hair was often used as well.

The hairstyle changed dramatically. Now large bundles of side curls and complicated braided or weaved knots were seen. A large comb placed behind the knot helped stabilize the pompous hairstyle. This is the time of the classic Apollo Knot. A “coiffeur” was needed for these extravagant hairstyles, particularly when a social event was at hand.
Unusual papier mache doll from 1830-35. Extreme hair modelling, glass eyes, very rare.
Dixon and Langley collection.

"Little Dorrit," Amy and Emma Dorrit.

After 1836 the hairstyle became plainer. Now the hair was worn with middle parting and plaited at the sides and wound around the ears to the top hair knot.. The look was charming and gracious. This was the Queen Victoria hairstyle, the prototype of many women. After her inauguration in 1837 it was very “chic” to wear ones hair like the Queen.

A time of marked changes in fashions and hairstyles...

"Day Dress" from mid 19th century..Notice beautiful shirred effect on sleeves and bodice.

"Secrets" Charles Sulacroix
Fashion of this time gradually changed to lowered waistlines. As the waistline descended, the corset re appeared, shaping the bodies of women and young girls everywhere. The sleeves changed dramatically, becoming wider and extravagant this was the time of the “ Leg o’ Mutton” sleeve, eventually so enormous, they had to be supported by a fish bone framework.
Skirts were gathered at the waist and supported with petticoats or crinolines.
Biedermeier Period Fashions for Men.....

"The Ultimate in Male Elegance" 1830 illustration, Le Bon Ton.
"Two Strings to Her Bow" John Pettie
This Victorian "genre" painting depicts a Regency (early 19th-century) young lady delighted at being the focus of attention of two rival "beaux" (handsome potential suitors), and even seeming to enjoy playing them off against each other.

The Biedermeier period (Regency period in England) was one of the great periods of male fashion. Men wore close fitting dress coats or evening coats, top hats, and colored waist coats. At the time, some men even wore corsets to achieve the perfect figure. A gentleman was always seen wearing the best attire, whether it was a wool evening tail coat or a double breasted suit with a charming top hat.
During the early Bierdemeier period, suits sported wide lapels, and white shirts were worn with stiffened collars high above the neck. Not until 1840 the collars were worn down with shirts made of linen or muslin, topped with a silk or wool vest.

Carl Gustav Biedermeier? He is the doll gentleman in the Doll and Toy Museum Rothenburg.

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, detail of Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck with his Wife and Children.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, women wore thin gauzy outer dresses while men adopted trousers and overcoats...
The description Biedermeier is sometimes applied to papier mache dolls with a black painted dot as the suggestion of a hairstyle on a plain egg-shaped skull common in the mid 19th century. Another is to describe almost any china doll form the same era. A collector’s theory is that a decorator usually painted on hair, but in the case of dolls that were to be wigged, he simply painted a circle on top of the head to indicate that the decorating was complete. Thus the use of this term has become very misleading. Most correctly is to use the term simply to refer to the years 1815-48... Constance Eileen King

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Origin of the Term "Milliner's Model Doll"...What's in a Name?

“That which we call a rose…By any other name would smell as sweet."
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
12" Milliner's Model Doll in shadow box filled with dried flowers, feathers and sea shells.
The dolls is wearing her original costume that includes a knitted hat. Shadow box retains original hand rolled glass front.
German Papier Mache with moded ringlets and painted swirls of locks down her back.
ca. 1835-40
"Young Woman with Jewelry" Note the similarities with the hairstyle of the doll featured above.

The first mass-produced molded papier mache heads were introduced at Sonneberg Thuringia in the early 19th century. At this time the German toy trade was expanding to embrace a world market. Papier mache heads were used extensively on a body made of fabric or leather, with the characteristic bands of leather neatening the joints of the wooden, or papier mache lower arms and legs.

Young Child Holding a Millinery's Model Doll ca. 19th century

Milliner's Model Winners at a UFDC Reg. 14 Competitive Exhibit.
Category: Milliner's Model types, or type body.

Beautiful 17" Kestner Milliner's, wearing a period bonnet of forest green silk velvet, featuring an ostrich plume. The doll's attire is a chintz print, with a rich deep green over cream background. Wonderful styling of the sleeves.
19th Century Child's Portrait

Small German Milliner's Model, 7 3/4” perfect in a large scale doll house. Black-painted molded hairstyle, and a white kid leather body with hard-carved wooden arms and legs. Original colorful silk dress and a charming straw hat.

This Papier Mache doll is all original. She can be dated to the end of the first decade of the 1800s. Her hairstyle is the fashion of the late teens and early 1820's with its multiple side curls and its braided top knot. She has painted tendrils along the side of her face. Her body is leather with wood hands and feet attached with paper bands. She is 12 inches tall with her hat .

The origin of the term “Milliner’s Model Doll” has only been speculated about;
“In the twentieth century, Eleanor St. George named this type of doll ‘Milliner's Model’. Her correspondence indicates that this was a name she created without historical documentation or precedent for it." - Coleman
According to St George “The small Milliner’s dolls or Coiffure dolls ranging from sizes 6 to 20 inches, were designed as a dressmaker’s doll, resembling ladies modeling the latest fashions in clothing and coiffures, and were not intended for play. After they had served their fashion purpose, many found their way to the nurseries to serve as play dolls.”

Georges Lemmen "Girl with Doll" ca. 19th century

Classic Milliner's style leather body on an exquisite 10 1/2" doll. Original hand sewn dress featuring Leg o' Mutton sleeves and matching bonnet.

There is much confusion over the terminology for dolls. According to John Darcy Noble these dolls could never have been used for the purpose of a dressmaker’s model for several reasons:
1. They were too small to use as patterns
2. The clothes were not in fact effectively removable for making patterns
3. The dolls themselves are difficult to dress and undress due to the stiff bodies and odd hairstyles
4. There is no record of these dolls being used for this purpose.

"Papier Mache Doll, Yellow/Red" Rainie Crawford

They are also referred to as "Varnished Heads" in the 1829-1833 Day Book of Lewis Page at the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, and according to Christiane Grafnitz, the proper term for the Milliner type dolls are German Papier Maches with wooden arms and legs.

"Nina Coultis" ca. mid 1800's... This is a rare 7 1/2" German doll with applied human hair on a painted head. At one time she was part of a museum collection.
"Playing with Dollie" Edward John Cobbett

"At the Millinery" Williamsburg, Va.

The name Milliner’s is a misnomer as they were never intended to be hat models, as it is hard to believe how these petite dolls with impossibly elaborate molded hairdos could ever have modeled hats.

Many German dollmakers made Papier Maches that greatly resembled China dolls. Some fashion dolls from the mid-1800s were made in France (predecessors to the later French bisque and china dolls). Later, some of the German Papier Mache dolls resembled their bisque sisters.

I would highly recommend Gregory LeFever’s article: “Milliner’s Models, or Varnished Heads”, on the “Early American Life” magazine issue, of April 2010 on the subject of these dolls. It was a great source of information on creating this post.