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."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Walking Down the Red Carpet 19th century style

The French Revolution at the end of the 18th century had a great deal to do with bringing hair fashion back down to Earth. Europeans and European-influenced countries saw the final triumph of undress or informal styles over the brocades, lace, periwig, and powder of the earlier eighteenth century. There was a return to the classical Greek hairstyles, with hair dressed closer to the head and fillets or bands of ribbon worn by women. No one in Europe wanted to appear to be an aristocrat, while in Britain, Beau Brummell introduced trousers, perfect tailoring, and unadorned, immaculate linen as the ideals of men's fashion.Women's fashions followed classical ideals, and tightly laced corsets were temporarily abandoned in favor of a high-waisted, natural figure.
Boilly "Checkers" ca. 1803
Queen Victoria Hairstyles

The model on the left has a typical 1840's hairstyle with a coiled, braided bun in back

"Mr and Mrs Charles Henry Carter" Attributed to Nicholas Biddle Kittle, ca. 1840. Here is domestic bliss, the husband quiet and studious, his wife gentle and devoted. Parlor has the intensity of a dollhouse. Nothing is done in this house without deliberation; when there is a child, its doll will be chosen with the same care. (Museum City of New York)... John Noble

Kister "Civil War" ca. 1860

Kister China Doll, "Civil War" ca. 1860

From the late 1830s to the mid 1860s women commonly wore their hair parted in the center, looped or draped in front of the ears and neatly bunned into a low chignon at the nape. This style was modest and neat, emphasising the width rather than height of the face, and was often worn with a lace cap. Queen Victoria and Melanie Wilkes (in the 1939 Gone With the Wind film adaptation) both wore this iconically demure hairstyle.
A variation on the theme was to add a real or false braid across the top of the head, just visible in front of the cap or hat brim.

Brown Eyed Kestner "Covered Wagon" hair-style ca. 1860

"The Heiress" Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift ca. 1949

"Too Early" Tissot

In the 1870s women wore ringlets at a ball. The hair was curled and arranged at the crown, with longer ringlets falling down the nape of the neck; often false curls would be added to the updo to increase its bulk. The front hair could be pulled straight back, parted in the center or worn as short curled bangs.

"Grape Lady" Alt, Beck & Gottschalck ca. 1865

Combs and other hair adornments were all the rage in the mid-1800’s. Women loved to decorate their hair with brooches, tiaras and all things sparkly. Interestingly, most of the hair ornaments from this era had detachable fixtures so that they could double as a brooch or pendant.

Conta & Boehme shoulder heads showing elaborate styles and hair ornament similar to plate below ca. 1860's

"Les Modes Parisiennes" December 1865

Conta & Boehme exquisite lace and brocade detail on back of dress

Conta & Boehme doll with hairnet holding hair in back of head ,and a golden luster tiara in the front

First Century Roman Woman statue shows ringlet's popularity even thousands of years ago.

Ringlets are closely associated with many eras, the large long neck draping ringlet of Marie Antoinette's 18th Century France. The petite forehead and before-the-ear ringlets of the Federal (USA), or Regency (England) eras of early 19th Century. The ponytail full of ringlets of the Victorian era (mid 19th Century), and so on to this very day, although ringlets now usually reserved for special occasion hairstyles.

“Pride and Prejudice” Curls
Although Jane Austen’s novel was set very late in the 1700s, the hairstyles from the BBC adaptation are appropriate for the early 19th century as well. A variation on the Queen Victoria look, this style emphasises the width of the face. The hair is center-parted and worn in bunches of ringlets at the temples, while the back hair is worn in some kind of chignon at the crown of the head.

Alt, Beck and Gottschalck china shoulder head doll. The facial features include blue painted eyes, partially outlined in black, exposed ears and well blushed cheeks. The doll has two large molded curls on the forehead.

1938 Bette Davis film Jezebel

Portrait of the Comtesse Vilain XIII and her Daughter by Jacques -Louis Davis 1816 National Gallery, London

F.&W. Goebel half-doll with finely modelled and painted flowers on the hair. Three long vertical curls are molded on each side of the head. ca. 1900's

July Fashions for 1842

Kate Winslet as Maryanne Dashwood "Sense and Sensibility" 1995

In the Mirror of Graces, a Lady of Distinction writes….Now, easy tresses, the shining braid, the flowing ringlet confined by the antique comb, or bodkin, give graceful specimens of the simple taste of modern beauty. Nothing can correspond more elegantly with the untrammeled drapery of our newly-adopted classic raiment than this undecorated coiffure of nature.

"Lady in Lemon Dress"

During this period, the classical influence extended to hairstyles. Often masses of curls were worn over the forehead and ears, with the longer back hair drawn up into loose buns or Psyche knots influenced by Greek and Roman styles. By the later 1810s, front hair was parted in the center and worn in tight ringlets over the ears.

"Spill Curls" ca. 1875

Ringlets have been popular for thousands of years, since some woman first realized that by gently heating a rod with a candle's flame and wrapping hair around it, she might not burn her hair off, and she just might get a gentle feminine curly ringlet. Then, of course, she realized that she'd need a maid or two to maneuver around her entire head and keep a series of rods warming and at-the-ready to create a head full of ringlets.

"Morning Glory" elaborate hairstyle

KPM Berlin "Morning Glory" ca. 1850 extremely rare doll, with painted eyes
and modelled eyelids

Dressel and Kister "Beehive" style, late 1800's

Women's styles concentrated on variations of a topknot with hair framing the face at the temples. At the beginning of the century, women abandoned their huge powdered wigs to twist their hair into Apollo knots and adorn their heads with Greek inspired wreaths, jeweled ornaments, flowers, and strands of pearls. As the century progressed, women's hair continued to be worn swept on top of the head, but the styles became more ornate. Their hair was greased, braided, and twisted into elaborate knots with curled or frizzed hair at the sides. Women's hairstyles had become so elaborate by the end of the century that wigs were back in demand. These elaborate styles provided many poor women with needed money, as they cut their hair and sold it to wigmakers.

Millinery shop in Paris, Chalon ca. 1822

Kate Greenaway "Bubbles"

"Curly Top China" wearing lace bonnet ca.1860's

19th-century headwear on display at Old Sturbridge Village

"Going to School"

Rolinda Sharples self portrait ca. 1820

Caps, mob caps, and veils were made of lace, white linen or delicate muslin, and trimmed with ribbon. They could be ruffled, embroidered, or plain, depending on who wore them and their status.
Artist Rolinda Sharples wears her hair in a mass of curls; her mother wears a sheer indoor cap,

Conservative married women continued to wear linen mob caps, which now had wider brims at the sides to cover the ears. Fashionable women wore similar caps for morning (at home undress) wear. No respectable woman would leave the house without a hat or. As for bonnets, their crowns and brims were adorned with increasingly elaborate ornamentations, such as feathers and ribbons. In fact, ladies of the day embellished their hats frequently, replacing old decorations with new trims or feathers.

The most widely used hair preparations of the century were Macassar oil and brilliantine, whose functions were to give hair shine. In general, hair fashions changed faster as news traveled faster from one country, and even continent, to another. The simplicity of the smooth, center-parted styles worn by women in the Victorian era lasted until the 1870s, when the Parisian hairdresser Marcel Grateau created a new, natural-looking wave by turning a curling iron upside down. The Marcel wave remained popular for almost half a century and helped usher in a new era of women's waved and curled hairpieces, which were mixed with the natural hair. Another major innovation at the end of the 19th century was the invention in 1895 of the safety razor by an American, William Gillette. Barbers now concentrated on cutting hair and trimming beards and mustaches, and a new age of at-home grooming practices began.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Porcelain, from the T'ang Dynasty to Meissen

"T'ang Dynasty" glazed pottery horse

In 1998, a German company was given permission to excavate the wreck of a 9th-century Arab trading ship that was discovered off the coast of the island of Belitung in Indonesia. It proved to contain an archaeological treasure trove.
With the wreck of the sunken vessel were found 60,000 pieces of rare Chinese porcelain. The collection became known as the Tang Treasure. The Tang Treasure was identified as having been produced in kilns in what is now the Chinese province of Hunan. It was probably intended for export to Malaysia, India and Arabia.
The Tang Treasure includes blue and white porcelain, tricolored glazed pottery from the Tang dynasty, and three early Qinghua plates, the best preserved of their kind ever found. Inscriptions found on some of the pieces suggest that the pottery was produced and transported in the early 9th century, and carbon dating has confirmed this.

T'ang white glazed porcelain ewer

T'ang porcelain ewer

Hard-paste or "true" porcelain originated in China during the T'ang dynasty (618-907 A.D.).Early Chinese porcelain consisted of kaolin (china clay) and pegmatite, a coarse type of granite. Porcelain was unknown to European potters prior to the importation of Chinese wares during the Middle Ages.

Kister china shoulder head

Europeans tried to duplicate Chinese porcelain, but, unable to analyze its chemical composition, they could imitate only its appearance. European craftspeople tried combining clay and ground glass. These alternatives became known as soft-paste, glassy, or artificial porcelains. Finally In 1707 they succeeded by combining clay with ground feldspar instead of the ground glass previously used.Later in the eighteenth century the English further improved upon the recipe for porcelain when they invented bone china by adding ash from cattle bones to clay, feldspar, and quartz.

KPM Berlin porcelain painting plaques:

“The Melon Eaters” after a painting by Murillo, with two boys seated next to a basket of fruit, one boy eating a slice of melon with his companion and a dog looking on.

A porcelain painting of rectangular form, the body with the polychrome painted scene "Niobe" the reverse side with title, on the lower right signed: L. Enk, KPM-Berlin, impressed sceptre and K. P. M., H, 1908 (Ru)

"Niobe," Greek Mythology. In the above scene, Apollo and Artemis revenge the insult to Leto by slaughtering Niobe's 12 children, the Niobids, with their arrows and petrifying Niobe in the form of a rock in the Sipylos Mt. where since then her tears are said to gush forth.

The China Dolls:

Although porcelain is used as a synonym for china, the two are not identical. China, also known as soft-paste or tender porcelain, is softer: it can be cut with a file, while porcelain cannot. This difference is due to the higher temperatures at which true porcelain is fired. Due to its greater hardness, porcelain has some medical and industrial applications which china, limited to domestic and artistic use, does not. Moreover, whereas porcelain is always translucent, china is opaque.

"The Ernest Fiedler family" Heinrich ca. 1850

A cosy family grouping , and the well-behaved children are vey like the dolls we are sure they possessed. (Museum of the City New York)

Kister china lady head ca. 1840 The hair is softly waved on the sides of the head and pulled into a bun on the back of the head.

KPM boy has a side part in his hair, the nose turns up slightly on the end. ca. 1840-1844

Throughout recorded history, images of women far outnumbered images of men. Busts and statues of ancient Greece and Roman women dominate art museums. In the doll world, dolls representing women outnumber their male counterparts.
Heads were originally dressed as either boy or girl. Molded side parts are an indication of a male doll.

"A Night at the Opera" Margaret Whitton Collection ca. 1840

Although bone china is fired at lower temperatures than true porcelain, the bone ash enables it to become translucent nonetheless. Because it is also easier to make, harder to chip, and stronger than hard porcelain, bone china has become the most popular type of porcelain in the United States and Britain (European consumers continue to favor hard porcelain).

Old broken raw model (front and back) from which the doll featured below, "Miss Liberty" could be identified.

Reflection shows hair lavishly styled at the back of the head and entwined with a black hair band.

This doll because of the similarities with the head of the Statue of Liberty in New York is called "Miss Liberty" Shoulder head made of very pale bisque - hair style adorned with a gold luster diadem ca. 1875

The Herwig porcelain factory in Katzhutte, Thuringia. The building on the left is filled with large holes, from which scavengers have pried Hertwig plaster molds to make reproduction porcelain products.


Chinese porcelain represented wealth and taste in 17th century Europe. Augustus the Strong of Dresden and Meissen in the German state of Saxony, sponsored the research into the development of white porcelain similar to that imported from China in the early 1700s. Meissen used the Chinese method of a single firing by glazing the initially formed piece and then firing the combination at 1350 degrees C. Meissen was in commercial production by 1713. and by the 1720s the enamels and detail style of Meissen fully developed.

Meissen Face

Style of the porcelain was borrowed from the original Chinese, from paintings by Watteau, court scenes, landscapes, flowers etc. While the recipe was a closely guarded secret, as all secrets, it was soon leaked. In order to identify the original Meissen products, Meissen developed markings that initially were painted on, but were soon fired in underglaze blue. Early markings were eventually replaced by the crossed swords logo. Introduced in 1720, it was used consistently after 1731 by official decree. Variations in the "crossed swords" logo allow approximate dating of the wares. Caution must be exercised, as Meissen is one of the most copied porcelains.

Porcelain derives its present name from old Italian porcellana (cowrie shell) because of its resemblance to the translucent surface of the shell. Porcelain is sometimes referred to as "china", as China was the birth place of porcelain making. Properties associated with porcelain include low permeability and elasticity; considerable strength, hardness, glassiness, brittleness, whiteness, translucence, and resonance.

Exquisite Nymphenburg China :

Although these dolls portray images of nobility and position from the late 18th Century, they were actually manufactured in the earliest years of the 20th Century to commemorate an earlier time.

The lady's head features a long, swan-like neck, brown down cast painted eyes, distinct dimples in chin and highly blushed cheeks, and the palest of cream colored wavy hair, off the shoulder and neck, with a very high forehead, almost in the style of Elizabeth the First of England.

One usually finds these heads as objects other than complete dolls, so it is rare to find one complete and assembled as an actual doll such as we find these examples. They have very nice firmly stuffed muslin bodies, long delicate porcelain arms with elegantly detailed blushed fingers and individual fingernails, and most intriguingly, the most unusual ( if not even bizarre ) molded white china boots with blue striped patterns with slightly raised heels and painted brown soles.

The immovable shoulder heads of Nymphenburg dolls have a peculiar hair style, high forehead with downward looking eyes and a touch of an amusing smile. Their placid countenance reminds me of figures from a manger scene.


Beautiful Volkstedt, Dresden figure group

In the early hours of dusk on Febuary 13th or the 15th 1945, Allied Forces, mistakenly bomb Dresden Germany, and near obliterated the region from the map. Unfortunately along with the destruction, much of the work and the history of all the porcelain produced in Dresden, the factories, molds, and most importantly their staffs were destroyed or killed. The porcelain industry never recovered from this loss.
Today this action remains one of the more controversial Allied actions of the Western European theater of war.

Nymphenburg China ca. 1901

Very rare Blanc de Chine

The earliest Chinas known were made by KPM Berlin (c. 1763-present), Meissen (c. 1710-present) and Royal Copenhagen ca. (1775-present) China dolls from these early manufacturers seldom come up for sale, and when they do, they command exorbitant prices .
The single key point in identifying products from one of these three companies is they always marked their products. KPM Berlin, KPM Meissen and Royal Copenhagen porcelain dolls are always marked with the company signature. If a doll is unmarked then it was not made by one of these companies.