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."

Friday, April 29, 2011

And they lived happily everafter....

Mimosa /orange juice early in the morning (in my pj's) watching a fairytale unfolding. My heartfelt wishes of lasting happiness to this beautiful young couple.

Her wedding dress, a beautiful throw back to the fifties, brought back memories of Grace Kelly's wedding to the Prince of Monaco.

The future King of England and the comely commoner who captured his royal heart tied the knot Friday while the British Empire - and the rest of the world - watched in rapture. Prince William and Kate Middleton, dubbed the duke and duchess of Cambridge before the ceremony, set off a wave of euphoria and celebrations across England and in former colonial outposts like New York City. After saying "I will" at Westminster Abbey, the happy couple departed for their reception by horse-drawn carriage to the tolling of the abbey's bells and cheers from the throngs lining the route to the royal reception at Buckingham Palace.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Truly, Madly, Deeply…Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Ann (nee Todd) Lincoln (December 13, 1818 – July 16, 1882)

Mary was the fourth of seven children, and her mother died after giving birth to her seventh child when Mary was six years old. A year and a half later, her father remarried and this marriage brought nine more children into the house. Mary’s stepmother was not sympathetic towards Mary which, some historians comment, might have contributed to her insecurities later in life. Despite growing up in the south with household slaves, Mary very early on grew to abhor slavery.

Mary Todd left home at an early age to attend a fine school. By the age of 20 she had a sparking personality that made her quite popular among Springfield's gentry. When she began living with her sister Elizabeth’s family, whom were very socially prominent, Mary became a popular belle.

Just 5 feet 2 inches at maturity, Mary had clear blue eyes, long lashes, light-brown hair with glints of bronze, and a lovely complexion. She danced gracefully, she loved finery, and her crisp intelligence polished the wiles of a Southern coquette.


In the fall, she met Abraham Lincoln, an aspiring lawyer who was 10 years her senior . They fell in love and were engaged at the end of the following year. Perhaps with his poorer background and debt in mind, Abraham asked Mary to release him from the engagement. After much depression, a friend arranged for them to get together again. The wedding took place on November 4, 1842,. Inside Mary’s ring was the inscription “Love Is Eternal.”

Mary Todd Lincoln's Inaugurational Gown

First Ladies of the White House Exhibit

They had four sons: Robert Todd (August 1, 1843), Edward Baker (March 10, 1846), William Wallace (December 21, 1850), and Thomas “Tad” (April 4, 1853). Eddie died of diphtheria. He was not even four years old. Afterwards, Mary could not speak his name without crying.

Thomas "Tad" Lincoln (April 4, 1853 – July 15, 1871) was the fourth and youngest son of 16th United States President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. Tad was known for his antics around the White House. There are stories of him interrupting Presidential meetings, drilling the White House guard and charging visitors to see his father.

Kiowa and Cheyenne leaders pose in the White House conservatory with Mary Todd Lincoln (standing far right) on March 27, 1863, during meetings with President Abraham Lincoln, who hoped to prevent their lending aid to Confederate forces. The two Cheyenne chiefs seated at the left front, War Bonnet and Standing In the Water, would be killed the next year in the Sand Creek Massacre.

Abraham was soon elected to the House of Representatives and in 1860, the year Republican party nominated him for president. the Civil War was imminent.

Doll is reproduction Mary Todd Lincoln (kit) sold by Yield House in 1970's.

Possibly Conta Boehme ca. 1860's

Southerners felt Mary was a traitor, turning against her roots, while Northerners felt she was a spy, as many of her relatives sided with the Confederacy. Mary Lincoln suffered from severe headaches throughout her adult life, and as First Lady had to deal with the death, from a fever, of her son Willie, as well as the deaths of siblings killed in the Civil War. Difficult bouts of mourning, especially after Willie’s death, led to protracted depression.

Black Velvet 1861...This dress depicts authentic period fashion of 1861. It features a high bodice with a front closure with open bell-shaped pagoda sleeves lined with white fabric and trimmed with ruching. The entire gown is lined with a sheer black cotton. The collar is white lace, fastened with a pearl broach. To accessorize the outfit, there is a handkerchief, fan, matching earrings and head dress. The fabric is authentic 1800's black cotton velvet.

Alt, Beck and Gottschalk "Mary Todd"...White glazed china shoulder-head with painted black hair, and two gilded hair bows. Body completely made of cloth ca. 1865

The president “had all her love,” and Lincoln loved her “as only his mighty heart could.”

Charles Sumner senator from Massachussetts.
“My wife was as handsome as when she was a girl,” Lincoln once told a reporter. “And I, poor nobody then, fell in love with her, and what is more, have never fallen out.”

Exquisite Conta Boehme "Mary Todd" shoulder head ca. 1866

The Young Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln

Once when Mary Lincoln let loose her anger at her husband’s arriving late for supper, he simply scooped her up in his arms and kissed her.

Mary Todd was vivacious and impulsive, with an interesting personality--but "she now and then could not restrain a witty, sarcastic speech that cut deeper than she intended...." A young lawyer summed her up in 1840: "the very creature of excitement." All of these attributes marked her life, bringing her both happiness and tragedy.

The 1860 decade marked the introduction of a number of china shoulder head dolls well known to collectors. One of them is the so-called Mary Todd Lincoln...There are no known pictures of Mrs Lincoln wearing the hairstyle credited to her by doll collectors. But she was prominent during the decade because of her husban's role as President of the United States during the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Exhibit "What They Were Wearing in Washington "

She has often been blamed for spending too much on the White House, but she felt, in defense of her drastic overspending, that it was important to the maintenance of prestige of the Presidency and the Union.

On April 9, 1865, with General Robert E. Lee surrendering to General Ulysses S. Grant, the war was officially over. Just five days later, on April 14, Abraham was shot by John Wilkes Booth in the Ford Theater, Mary’s hand in his. The president lingered until passing away at 7:22 a.m. He was buried in Springfield, next to his two sons. Mary never recovered from this tragedy.

Museum piece Mary Todd Lincoln doll in mourning dress.

son..Robert Todd by Daniel Huntington ca. 1885

On May 22, 1865, she left the White House, to live with her remaining sons Robert and Tad. Unfortunately, Tad fell ill and never fully recovered from a respiratory infection. On July 15, 1871, he died. Mary had now lost her husband, three half-brothers, and three sons. “One by one,” she said, “I have consigned to their resting place my idolized ones, and now, in this world there is nothing left for me but the deepest anguish and desolation.” After Tad died , she slipped into a world of illusion where poverty and murder pursued her.

Her health deteriorated rapidly, and on May 20, 1875, after a juried trial, Mary was declared insane and confined to Bellevue Nursing and Rest Home in Batavia, Illinois. Mary’s supporters believed her son Robert had ulterior motives and they worked to get her released. A misunderstood and tragic figure, she passed away in 1882 at her sister's home in Springfield--the same house from which she had walked as the bride of Abraham Lincoln, 40 years before. She was buried next to her husband and three sons at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. Her wedding ring, thin from wear, still bore the words “Love Is Eternal.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fanny Elssler...Dancer of the Romantic Era

Fanny Elssler

During its heyday from the 1820s well into the 1840s, the Romantic ballet featured some of the most famous ballerinas the dance world has ever produced....

Marie Taglione.. Danceuse Principal

Marie Taglioni, Fanny Cerrito, Carlotta Grisi, and Fanny Elssler were among the first dancers to be renowned internationally, and they remain heralded in the annals of ballet today for their early virtuosity and expressive capacities. However, during much of the nineteenth century, ballerinas in general were subject to derision because of their perceived immorality and indecorousness.

" Les Sylphide"... pas de quatre.

Quite simply, they represented an art form that was designated by denizens of the nineteenth century as immodest female public display catering only to lascivious male admirers. Indeed, even during the pinnacle of Romantic ballet's popularity during the late Regency period and the early Victorian era, professional dancers were considered by most to be little more than courtesans to monied or titled patrons. Such an attitude became the master narrative for these cultural icons as the century matured.

"Fanny and Therese" portrait by Mueller.

Fanny Elssler was one of the most famous ballerinas of the 19th century. Fanny was trained in ballet from an early age and made her début before the age of seven. She was often performing with her two years older sister Therese (1808-1878). The older sister was to be overshadowed by the success of Fanny, but they continued to perform together – Therese finally leaving the stage when she had gathered quite a fortune and could look forward to a comfortable life. The beginning of the great success for Fanny Elssler came at her performance in Berlin 1830 – with her sister. This was to mark the beginning of international travels and performances in Europe and the US.

Le Délire d'un peintre was produced in London in 1843.

It was a typical piece of Romantic ballet nonsense, about a painter (Jules Perott) who is in love with a dancer (Fanny Elssler), whom he has painted. The dancer pretends to be the painting come to life and haunts him 'mingling the most sparkling playfulness with the most deep-souled passion'. In the end they are married and the ballet ends with the spirited Castilliana Bolero. Perrot's tight breeches and short bolero jacket, with elaborate decorations, and Elssler's bell-shaped skirt trimmed with flounces of lace would identify the dance as Spanish, even if they were not holding the obvious castanets. In 1836, Elssler had a huge success with a solo based on the Spanish dance, the Cachucha, and ever afterwards audiences expected a Spanish-style solo or pas de deux in her ballets, even, as in Le Délire d'un peintre, the story had nothing to do with Spain.

"The Shadow Dance"

Fanny Elssler's romantic admirers included the pre-March publicist and diplomat Friedrich von Gentz (1764-1832). A man 45 years Elssler's senior, whose admiration and personal devotion she enjoyed from 1829 until his death, he was a friend and admirer of Prince Klemens von Metternich, who warned him against the liaison with the younger woman, but his words were useless against the passion of Gentz's life. Metternich and others believed that Gentz's affair reflected a Romantic aspect never seen before in such a rational man., and it was generally accepted by his friends that the involvement with the dancer hastened the former rationalist's death. But Gentz was one of many for Fanny Elssler, who was idolized by fans at the peak of her career, like the singers Henriette Sontag and Jenny Lind who were similarly admired. This obsessive admiration reflected passion of many contemporaries for the performing arts during the Biedermeier era.

Fanny as "Myrth" in the ballet Gisselle

Fanny Elssler epitomized lively theatricality. She was one of the most important ballerinas of the Romantic era; her dancing was sensuous, earthy, and fired by great energy. Along with the Romantic image of women as diaphanous and fragile creatures, there was a surge in nationalism due to the proliferation of wars and revolts during the 19th century. This increase in national pride led many artists to revive the folk traditions of their countries.

Lithophane of Fanny Elssler tying her shoes...

Biscuit Porcelain, Chodau manufactory,Bohemia, ca. 1890.

This piece was originally illuminated by a candle, later electrified. A lithophane is a thin piece of porcelain in which a relief image is produced by the sculptor manipulating the thickness of the clay to let certain amounts of light shine through the plate. The thinnest parts of the clay shine the most light, thus the light-struck components of the image are carefully balanced against the more dense “darker” ones.

"La Cachucha"

One of her most famous performances was doing the La Cachucha in the role of Florinda in the ballet Le diable boiteu, written by Jean Coralli and Casimir Gide in 1836. This was even to be captured on prints of the time, and even in porcelain. She was also noted for her performances as the lead in Jules Perrot's La Esmeralda (1844).

ABG "Fanny Elssler" white china shoulder head, with kid body, and painted blue eyes. Original blue silk and lace dress ca. 1850's.

Alt, Beck and Gottschalk "Fanny Elssler" shoulder-head of flesh tinted china. Hair double parted on top forming a "V". on the hairline. Smooth black hair swoops down to cover ears, and is caught up in a coiled, braided bun in back. Brown eyes and closed mouth painted red. Cloth body with china lower legs and arms...ca. 1850.

Elssler became an international star as a result of her extensive tours throughout Europe, the United States, Cuba and Russia. Among her many admirers were the writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She was to stay on stage and perform until she retired, having earned a fortune which could make it possible for her to have a comfortable life henceforth.

She purchased an elegant villa near Hamburg, where she lived in quiet retirement for many years. Visitors from a distance occasionally dropped in for some years after her retirement, but her fame was as ephemeral as it was glorious, and long before she could be called an old woman the world had almost entirely forgotten her. Although she lived outside of Hamburg, she died in her beloved Vienna and was buried there at the Hietzing cemetery.

For most dancers whose lives were "known" by the ton, there ended aesthetic consideration of them. Fanny was able to escape such pigeonholing, however, because of her impressive virtuosity on stage. Indeed, she was universally recognized in the dance world as the standard bearer for artistry, and it was this bravura that made her reputation_far more than her affairs.