Nuances of an Art Recapitulated

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A reproduction Lydia china doll with well done face painting

Antique dolls are an art form. It is easy to see the art in the beautiful French bisque dolls of Bru, Steiner, and Jumeau, yet the less complex porcelain china dolls exhibit their artistry in the design of their face and shoulder mold, in the purity of the porcelain from which they are made, and in the beauty of their hairstyles and face painting. As one who collects and studies antique dolls, I often come across reproductions of the antique dolls in my searches. The durability of the one piece porcelain shoulder-heads renders them quite attractive for making new molds from the antique heads.

In all fairness though, molds, or copies,  were being made of the old doll heads when they were still contemporary. Old papier mache heads have been found that are copies of German china dolls, and not all have a known maker. Martha Chase modeled her cloth dolls after French or German bisque dolls of the time, possibly using a bisque doll as a mold for her oil painted dolls. Even the Schoenhut “Miss Dolly” was modeled after a German doll owned by a child in the company’s family.

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This Schoenhut wooden Miss Dolly doll in my collection dates to about 1915.

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Schoenhut, an American manufacturer, found it profitable to add the Dolly Face doll to their line of character dolls at a time when dolls could no longer be imported from Germany during WWI.

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Here is an antique German bisque dolly face by Heubach. The Schoenhut doll above is quite similar with fat cheeks and pretty, but non-descript, features.

Many antique china dolls (as well as other antique dolls) are so rare now that a well executed reproduction can be a blessing for collectors like me who may never see one of these older revered dolls, much less ever expect to own one.  For this reason, a few artistic reproduction dolls, as well as a reissue doll, have gained entry with respectable status into my collection of antique dolls.

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I have already introduced you to my reproduction Izannah Walker doll, Miss Ruby. She is a faithful and artistic rendering of an antique doll, made by Paula Walton. She is very close in her production to an antique Izannah Walker doll, and very likely as close as I can come to owning an example of this highly sought after and extremly expensive example of American folk art at its’ best.

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Miss Ruby is my reproduction Izannah Walker doll

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Cordelia, a reproduction china doll, has pleasant face painting, but it is not the same as an antique German china doll. Also, the glaze on her porcelain causes the crisp lines of the detailed braids to be lost. She is not signed by the artist.

Another reproduction doll in my collection is my first china doll, Cordelia. She was most likely molded from a Parian doll, a porcelain doll that was not glazed, but made from white bisque. This hairstyle was also reproduced by Emma Clear and named “Toinette.” I have not yet found an antique doll with braids like Cordelia to add to my collection.

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This antique Parian doll has the same hairstyle as Cordelia, but with added flowers in the loop of the braid. She also has molded lace around her shoulders and glass eyes. Her braids are crisp with individual brush strokes in the hair. She is much more exquisite, and better artistically rendered than Cordelia.

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An antique  Hertwig “Curl on Top” china doll is shown next to a reproduction of the same doll.

The Hertwig “Curl on Top” china doll is uncommon, but not rare. I purchased the reproduction of this doll, on the right above, while waiting to find an antique one to add to my collection. I was not happy with the reproduction. In comparison, the porcelain quality is inferior, the hair color is a bit garish and lacks crispness, and the face painting has no depth. I am happy to have found my antique Hertwig doll. Notice that the reproduction shoulder-head is slightly smaller that the original. This shrinkage occurs when a mold is made of an existing head. The new head is molded from the antique and shrinks when fired in the kiln.

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The face painting on this 13″ Hertwig doll is typical for this manufacturer, circa 1900. The hair is nicely molded with brush strokes.

Another doll on my wish list is an 1840’s Lydia china doll. Unfortunately for me, this antique doll is quite rare, and well out of my price range when she is to be found. I have, however, seen a few good reproductions of this doll, and I was fortunate enough to have added one to my collection.

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An antique china doll with Lydia hairstyle circa 1840. The face painting on this doll indicates that she was made by the A. W. Kister Porcelain Factory. Note her pink tint with whites of eyes.

The reproduction that I purchased has an appropriate reproduction body with flat soled shoes and spoon hands. Her face painting is well done. She cost me 1% of the $5000 to $6000 that an antique Lydia sells for.

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This is the reproduction Lydia, marked “Rossi” on the back of her shoulder-plate. She may have been molded from a doll like the one above. Her coloring is not as high as the antique doll pictured above, and her lips are painted differently, yet her painting is good. As with the antique Lydia, she has a pale pink tint and the whites of her eyes remain white.

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The little doll in the pocket of the antique dress is an antique “baderkinder” or Frozen Charlotte with a Lydia hairstyle.

“Curly Top” is another uncommon, though not rare, china doll that is often found reproduced. This one with black hair is marked “P S” on the back of her shoulder-plate.

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The painting on this 3″ reproduction Curly Top is well done, but not quite like the originals. Again, the hair is not crisp through the thicker applied glaze. Some antique Curly Top dolls have delicate wisps of hair painted at the tips of the curls.

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This circa 1880 antique Curly Top in my collection, with Cafe Au Lait hair, is larger than the reproduction above, with a shoulder-head that measures 5 3/4″. She is beautifully painted in the style of Alt Beck & Gottschalck dolls. The accent line painted between her lips has a very slight V dip in the middle which gives her an introspective smile.

Almost all of the newer china doll copies are reproductions; however, there is one that is a re-issue of an antique doll made by the original company. This is the Royal Copenhagen porcelain doll with a brown bun that was originally made in the 1840’s. Royal Copenhagen re-issued this porcelain shoulder-head from their molds beginning in 1977 with production lasting into the 1980’s. This doll (along with a larger lady and a boy doll) is well made and artistically rendered from the original company. It is difficult to tell the difference from the original antique doll. She is a work of art, beautifully sculpted with her long lady’s neck, mature face, pale pink tint, and face painting details.

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The smaller re-issue Royal Copenhagen Bun Lady doll in my collection is also known as “Amalie” by collectors.

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This antique 1840’s Royal Copenhagen doll, from the collection of Kirsten Johansen, was featured on the May 2015 cover of Antique Doll Collector magazine for their article on Royal Copenhagen Dolls.

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“Denmark” and the Royal Copenhagen waived blue lines are clearly visible on the back of the shoulder-plate of the re-issue doll in my collection.

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I recently found an appropriate body for this doll with low heeled shoes and lady-like hands, but she has no clothing yet.

With much of what we consider as art at its’ finest, we must visit a museum to see it in all of its’ splendor. It is the rare and wealthy collector who can hope to own a Degas sculpture or a Carl Larsson painting. We may decide to bring home a small reproduction of a favorite sculpture, or a print of a painting we admire. Likewise, some of the most lovely antique dolls are so rare that bringing one into our personal collection is just not possible. Of course an oil painting will be much higher quality than a print of that painting. And so an original antique doll will be superior to a reproduction. With this maxim in mind, it is best to bring the antique doll into a collection whenever possible. Yet a good quality reproduction of an antique doll can bring the art of the doll recapitulated into our space, and bring joy to our collection when the original doll is out of reach.

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Antique photo of girl holding a Covered Wagon style china doll

May you surround yourself with art that speaks to your heart and soul.

The Mice Come to Tea

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Gussie is pleased with the new complete antique Staffordshire tea set in Dresden Flowers which is a different blank from the little sepia Dresden Flowers pot featured in an earlier post. She is also surpressing a giggle about the wee mice on the cake plate.

After showing all the little children’s Staffordshire dishes and tea pots, it is High Tea time to serve the tea and cakes! The girls have been patiently waiting to try out the esteemed recipe for Spiced Mice Butter Cookies flavored with cinnamon, allspice, and cardamon. The cookies certainly did not disappoint, thought the cats could not be interested enough to pose for a photo at tea.

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Brighde places ears on the little mice who have been egg-washed. Some have raisin-bit eyes already, and they await their chow mein noodle tails.

We made one batch at the regular tablespoon size, then we made teaspoon sized doll mice.

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Edith watches over the newly baked and cooling mice so they don’t scamper all over the kitchen.

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Brighde shows the full sized mice on a ruby red plate.

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Would you like another mouse with your tea?

The recipe for Dita Von Teese’ Spice Mice Cookies was published in InStyle magazine with her interview a number of years ago. These little mice seem to be a popular blog topic, so rather than write out the recipe once more, I will share another blog post where you can find it:  Whipped for Spice Mice Cookies. These are melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies with the perfect mild exotic cardamon flavor to make them unusually enticing. And you’ve never seen anything so adorable for the doll’s tea time!

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A cozy, spicy November to you, your dolls, and your mice.

The Making of Moira

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Some antique dolls are just special, and you know it when you find them, even when they are not whole. Moira is such a doll. I found her as a shoulder-head with no body sitting on a shelf with another more common shoulder-head. I brought them both home with me.

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Moira’s hair is puffed around the back of her head and covered by a snood. Some of the black color has worn off the high points on the back of her hair–a sign that a long-ago little girl played with her and loved her.

China dolls are unique among many other dolls because their molded hair does not change with time, and it holds a record of a specific fashion in its time. Of course, the most commonly found china dolls are the lowbrows, which were made into the 1920’s or 30’s. The flat tops, while older and dating as far back as the American Civil War era, are still common and readily available. Dolls with more unusual hairstyles add variety and interest to a collection, and incentive to study their history. I was immediately attracted to this doll’s hairstyle which has a puffed roll around the back of her head covered by a snood, with the front of her hair exposed with a center part. She also has beautiful face painting with a serene expression.

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German Chinas page 155 has a photo of a doll similar to Moira in the Conta & Boehme section.

When I turned to my invaluable reference book, A Pictoral Reference Guide for German Chinas by Mary Gorham Krombholz, I found a photo of a doll very similar to Moira in the section on Conta & Boehme dolls. This was exciting for me because I rarely see dolls made by this factory. Conta & Boehme made porcelain products in Poessneck, Thuringia from 1800 until the factory closed in 1931. The earliest china doll shard found on the factory site dates to 1845. This doll with a snood dates to the mid 1860’s. Some Conta & Boehme dolls are marked with the company’s trademark of a shield with a bent arm inside. If Moira had such a mark, it is now lost because her shoulder-plate was broken and is professionally repaired. The repair is so well done that I cannot find the edges. The only difference in the repaired part is that the porcelain is more opaque and creamy. It does not have the ice-blue luminous quality of old porcelain, as does the face of this doll.

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It is difficult to tell that Moira’s shoulder-plate has been repaired, though the light from the photo flash shows the color difference from her face and neck to her shoulders. She has the added interest of three sew-holes front and back.

After identifying Moira, I wanted to find a body that would suit her. Within the year, I found one that is the right size, quality and age. Moira’s shoulder-head is 5 1/4″ tall and 4 1/4″ across the shoulders. Completed, she is 19″ tall. While her shoulder-head could take a slightly larger body, she is buxom and becomming on this one. The body is old cotton with cloth feet and leather arms. It is stuffed with cotton batting and horsehair. The leather is old and cracked. Her right arm has a break that is held together with masking tape. Because of the condition of the leather, I will not attempt to repair it by sewing. It will just be how it is.

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Moira has quite a mid- 19th century silhouette with her silky sloping shoulders and the horizontal neckline of her new chemise.

Moira’s body came with a set of drawers and a short petticoat. I left them on and added another set of long drawers and petticoat with matching knitted lace. While 19th century undergarments consist of three basic pieces–chemise, drawers, and petticoat–a number of the dolls I find, or undergarment sets, are missing the chemise. The chemise, of course, is a simple knee-length shift that is the first garment worn next to the skin. It is often undecorated, or may have lace at the neckline and sleeves, but never at the hem since that part never shows under the petticoat. I made this chemise for Moira. It was cut simply from one piece of muslin folded in quarters and cut to Moira’s size. It is machine sewn on the long seams with the lace hand sewn, and the neck is just gathered with the red ribbon beaded through the lace.

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Moira serves tea in her antique morning dress with waived braid trim.

One never knows when a special doll will make herself known. Moira is one of those unassuming beauties who may have been passed up by many because she was just a repaired shoulder-head. Now she is made, and a complete doll again.

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Antique photo of a girl holding a china shoulder-head

The August Dolls

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Along with Augusta, these four dolls came home with me from the Portland Doll Show on August 20th.

Some seasons, at the semi-annual Portland Crossroads Doll & Teddy Bear Show & Sale, I find  my bag filling up with every manner of doll accessory. Doll clothing–ranging from late-1800’s to modern–abound, and one can spend hours rummaging through the dollar bins, sometimes to fair advantage. I come away from this show with crocheted items, chairs, mini books, little old tea cups, old leather shoes, fabrics and laces, teeny cards of buttons, and teddy bears. Sometimes after hours of wandering and choosing, I realize that I have not bought a doll. But not this time!

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An enigma–a Hertwig (ABG?) Currier & Ives doll, and a Kister doll with very curly hair.

These two 20″ tall chinas found their way into my bag early in the morning. The first girl, on the left, is a Currier and Ives hair style. She has tendrils of hair falling onto her neck all the way around, and her ears are exposed. This girl, who I have named Clara, has all the characteristics of a doll made by the Hertwig factory. She has long single stroke eyebrows that almost wrap around her eyes, which are not outlined or highlighted, and the pupils gaze upward. She has a pursed heart-shaped mouth, and a large incised size number “6” on the back of her shoulder plate. And finally, she has the quintessential Hertwig lower legs with horizontal ribs and short brown boots. Her cloth body appears to be original.

I have not previously researched Currier & Ives dolls, and now, after looking her up in Mary Gorham Krombholz’s book, A Pictorial Reference Guide for German Chinas, I have conflicting information. The Currier & Ives doll in the book is in the Alt, Beck, & Gotschalk chapter; however, she defies Mary’s criteria for ABG dolls. She is a large doll and does NOT have eye accent dots or outlines, and she does not have the darker lip accent line or the V dip in her lips. Furthermore, ABG made the Spill Curls doll at about the same time (1870’s to 1880’s) which is a very similar style to the Currier & Ives doll, and is undeniably from ABG. The Currier & Ives doll has face painting that fits all the criteria for Hertwig dolls, she has the large size number incize mark on the back of her shoulder plate, and my doll, Clara, has a body with unglazed porcelain arms and Hertwig type ribbed legs with brown boots rather than ABG type C-cup hands and black heeled boots with the V-shaped top. She looks different from my other ABG dolls. Therefore, in my opinion, the Currier & Ives doll is a Hertwig factory doll, and not an ABG doll. I welcome further comentary on this issue!

An Alt, Beck, & Gottschalk china doll with the Spill Curl hair style is shown on the right. This doll is clearly from the ABG factory and is similar to the Currier & Ives hair style doll on the left. Note the similarities and difference in the face painting.

 

Clara came dressed in split drawers and a lace petticoat. The red cotton dress with feather stitched embroidery was one of those endearing finds in a pile of newer baby doll clothing. It is a perfect young girl’s dress for this doll, and layers nicely with her petticoat. (A child of this late 1800’s period would wear a shorter knee length dress, and not a full length petticoat. However, I think Clara should get to keep the clothing that she brought with her.)

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The Currier and Ives doll, Clara, shows off her Hertwig ribbed limbs with brown boots.

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Even the lady dolls enjoy a bottle of Maryhill wine!

This lady china doll has an unusual curly hairstyle that is similar to, but is not, a flat top style. Her hair, with comb marks in the back, falls smooth to her ear level, then ends in tight round curls all around. It is this unusual hairstyle that recommends her. She has the facial features of a doll made by the A. W. Fr. Kister factory with straight single stroke brows, eyes that are not highlighted or outlined, and an upper lip with low, far-spaced peaks. This doll has a professionally rebuilt shoulder plate and a new made body with cloth feet and newer unglazed porcelain lady’s lower arms. She came unclothed. She currently has no small cloths, and is wearing an antique silk gold and honey striped wrapper dress. I bought this dress to try and clothe Miss Bettina or Edith of the white chemises and petticoats in the doll’s house bedroom, but this dress’s sleeves are too narrow for those dolls. This new curly headed doll has narrower arms, and the dress fits her fairly well.

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Bessie greets the Hertwig twins in the child-sized Seth Tudor chair. She is thinking about pushing the twins out of the chair so she can try it–just her size!

The smaller blonde china is without a doubt a Hertwig lowbrow doll. At 12 1/2″ tall, Bessie is just right to be a child in the doll’s house. She has nice quality china arms and smooth (not ribbed) china legs with black boots and blue painted bows. Bessie came dressed in a nice lace trimmed pinnafore style petticoat and tucked drawers.

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Bessie is delighted with the ABC blocks, the story books, and the wee china doll that are now her toys! The lady doll is an ABG curly top hairstyle in the Cafe Au Laite color. She has brown leather arms, blue leather boots, and is wearing an 1880’s polonaise style antique dress with a new underskirt.

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The smallest all-bisque doll is also a Hertwig. At 6″ tall, Chelsea has nicely molded features with crisp curls, comb marks in her yellow hair, and detailed hands with molded knuckle dimples and fingernails. She wears a molded camisole and drawers with blue trim and blue bows at her knees above her bare feet. Her legs were un-strung when I got her, and the edges of them are chipped at the hip. I kept the narrow elastic cording that had been used to string her, but added china buttons to keep the knots from pulling through the holes again. Her arms have the original wire armature. She fits nicely as an infant in the Breton cradle in the doll’s bedroom.

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Augusta is all freshened up with a new place to sit on a small Windsor sewing rocker with an age appropriate quilt remnant.

I was content with my china and bisque doll finds this time, and was wandering around, peeking at my favorite booths and looking into all the corners. Then, Gussie just sort of leaped into my arms later in the day. Although I had been looking at Greiner dolls for a number of years, I was not intending to buy another doll this day. She was the right doll at a very good price, though she was a shoe-less waif with a dusty dress when I found her.

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Here is Gussie all ready for bed in a night dress made of 19th century pink calico. (It is quite long and was most likely made for a baby.) She didn’t want to give up her new shoes (found at the doll show just for her) while she waited for her dress to dry from its’ laundering.

 

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Undies all freshened up and a good look at her mid 19th century cloth body.

German born Ludwig Greiner came to the United States in the 1830’s, settling in Philadelphia. He made papier mache dolls and patented his process of reinforcing the papier mache with cloth. The patent label reads, GREINER’S IMPROVED PATENT HEADS Pat. March 30th ‘58. Some pre-patent Greiner dolls have glass eyes, and there are variations in the hair styles, though all the Greiner dolls have a distinctive look. Gussie is 26″ tall with a cloth body and legs, and dark brown leather lower arms and hands. She has black hair and dark blue painted eyes.

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Augusta’s patent label, glued on the back of her shoulder plate.

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A linen petticoat.

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China and glass buttons all down the back, including the blue ringer on the petticoat just visible at the bottom of the photo. The cotton dress is gorgeous, but is in frail condition.

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Freshly dressed in her deep burgundy dress with gold floral print, “new” old kid leather shoes, and a golden real sanddollar pendant.

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Antique photograph of a little girl holding a Greiner doll with dark leather arms.

We’re wishing all of you all the joys of poking around, viewing, and purchasing at your favorite antique show or rummage sale. Take joy!

Golden August Days

 

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My newest charmer, Augusta, is a Greiner paper mache doll.

In the turning of the days for my family, it is August that routinely brings us fun outings. There is the Aurora Colony Days festival, followed by the Portland Doll Show, with the Oregon City Antique Fair bringing up the rear. And this year our August events were led by a wedding! My youngest son, Jeremiah, married his long time friend and sweetheart, Jazmyne.

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Jeremiah’s first dance with his new bride in a sun-gold haze.

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A formal occaision! Me with Jeremiah and Jonathan. Unfortunately, middle son Alex was not able to be there.

Our path to the wedding, which was held in the Yakima Valley, Washington, led us through Goldendale where I stopped for wine at the Maryhill Winery, my favorite!

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Showing off one of my bottles, along with the Columbia River Gorge-eous view.

The very next weekend we went south of the mighty Columbia to the Pudding River and antiques at Aurora.

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I resisted the urge and didn’t buy any chairs this time, though these caught my eye.

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Artful displays of glass always catch my attention too. A few of these “sun purple” sherbets did come home with me.

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A Victorian curved glass side by side secretary has been on my wish list for many, many years. This one is small enough to fit in my available space, and as a “shabby chic” renovation, it fit my budget–yes, the $1400 ones are still lovely to look at and dream about. I forgot to photograph this one before it left the shop. It was hard to photograph in its new little location. I already love it as my new best protected doll display place!

The next event, the Portland Doll Show did not fail to delight!

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These three mid-19th century papier mache ladies were some of the first dolls to greet me.

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A Martha Chase boy dressed in lace with a wee bisque companion was also a charmer.

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Brighde goes for more modern dolls. She thought this huge brunette girl could be her daughter, and she would have liked to bring her home. (We didn’t.)

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Several china dolls and an all-bisque little girl came home with me.

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Then, Gussie sort of leaped into my arms later in the day.

I will tell you all about these dolls in my next post very soon.

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After attending two other antique and doll events in close succession in August, I don’t often find much at the Oregon City Antique Fair, but I do usually find something unique. This time I found these vintage Japanese kimono remnants for doll sewing, and an oval framed old photograph of two girls dressed in Edwardian white; one holding a bisque doll.

 

 

The Little Sisters painted 1896 (2)

May all of your August days be golden.

Introducing Hannah Lavender through The Daybook of Eleanor Rose

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Although an antique doll who comes to us often feels private and personal, we  know that our antique dolls and their clothing have a history of their own. To have provenance for a doll is a wonderful validation of her place of origin and her people who came before us. Many dolls that come to us from “The Market” do not come with provenance. Below is my creative imagining for how this wax head doll, who I have named Hannah Lavender, came to her family of origin, and how she had her wardrobe bestowed upon her:

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Antique Regency Era Fine Muslin Dress. Notice the diamond shaped back panel.

April, 1811:    It is in this month that I, Eleanor Rose, reach my 16th year. I have received an invitation to the ball to be held at Dawlish next month. I am admonished to keep my deportment demur, tho I must confess here that I am quite overcome with excitement! MaMa has orderd muslin from London. My new gown is to be the latest cut with high waist, tiny puff sleeves, and narrow skirts.

Late April, 1811:    My new gown is ready! The muslin is of pale lavender patterned in circlets. The sleeves and bodice seams are set with tiny piping, and there are self fabric bands accenting the hem. How the muslin does flow when I walk and dance! MaMa has saved some nice lavender sprigs to accent my hair, and I am to wear her amethyst necklace and earrings. The ball is Saturday next!

 

Antique Sheer Regengy dresses Hamburg Museum

Oh what airey muslin!

May 1811:    The Dawlish ball was just the most gay affair! Ever so many ladies turned out in the palest muslin gowns, though mine was not to be bested. I was introduced to Mr. Adam Fletcher, a most amiable dance partner. He attended on me often during the evening and arranged to be seated at my side for the banquet. He is to call on us tomorrow. My heart is aflutter!

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A spencer jacket and lovey embroidery.

June, 1817:    Our dearest baby girl, Juliet Henrietta, arrived this month–the very month that my Mr. Fletcher and I were wed these five years gone. Charles and Hudson are lovely energetic boys yet I am delighted to have a girl child to dote upon.

January, 1823:    Christmas was a fine celebration this year. Charles received a bow with arrows and Hudson has a fine set of soldiers. Juliet was delighted with her wooden doll with black curls on each side of her face. Adam also brought her a wee set of tea dishes made in the Staffordshire district. We all delighted in the artistry of the blue painting on the pot and tiny cups. They will be kept back for Sunday play until Juliet is old enough to care for them properly. We will keep occupied these cold rainy days in making petticoats and frocks from pickings out of the rag bag for the new poppet.

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Early 19th century attire for well-to-do children

October, 1847:    Our Juliet has given us a granddaughter. Praise God, the child is born alive and is thriving. She is christened Louisa Elizabeth. Master Graham, being nine years her senior will not be of an age for her playmate. He will soon be learning the estate.

October, 1856:    Louisa is quite the young lady. Adam, the ever doting Grand PaPa presented her with the most lovely wax head doll for her birthday. The doll has curls of real auburn hair and blue glass eyes. She is of a likeness to Louisa. I took my old muslin dress that I wore when I first was introduced to Adam from the rag pile. There is enough good material to make a play frock with a yoke for Louisa and a dress with tiny white braid trim for the doll. Louisa has named her doll Hannah.

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Mid 19th century child dress with wide neckline and puff sleeves.

June, 1870: Some days my tired old bones do not allow me to walk down the stairs. Today Louisa came up to sit with me. She is quite the fashionable lady now, and is skilled at copying the latest Paris designs. She learned sewing making simple frocks for her wax doll. She brought that old doll up to show me with a new frock she had created with remnants. It is fashioned of bright red strips with gold tinsel woven in the fabric. The little frock has a low waist and a nicely fashioned coat. I must say, it lacks the elegance and flow of my old lavender muslin dance dress. I wonder what ever became of Juliet’s wooden doll with the black curls . . .

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This is how the wax head doll appeared on the sales table in Portland, August 2015. Everyone, including me, noticed the lovely and demure muslin dress before noticing the doll to whom it belonged!

Again, the above journal is a fictional account. Yet it is an apt provenance for a lovely little doll and her varied wardrobe.

Hannah Lavender is 14.5″ tall. She has a shoulder-head attached to a cloth body with possibly papier mache arms and legs with bare feet. Her limbs are smoothy painted or gessoed. She has blue glass stationary eyes and soft mohair auburn hair with bangs. I believe that she is English.

Dating wax dolls is not easy because they are rarely marked. This little girl seems to be from the mid 1800’s. A post by Dolls By DianeComplete History of Wax Dolls, gives good information on this type of antique doll.

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The lavender muslin dress seems to be the earliest style in the wardrobe , possibly dating circa 1850, while the red dress with the drop waist, pleated back, and longer jacket is an 1870’s to 1880’s style.

 

The lavender muslin dress, which is the highlight of Hannah Lavender’s wardrobe, is a lovely creation in its modesty, even though the red dress is more showy. Muslin is a plain weave fabric which originated in cotton in the Middle East and was imported to England from India. It was a favored dress fabric in the early to mid 19th century in gauzy weave of pale pastel colors. Jane Austen’s Mr. Tilney knew all about fine muslin–his sister wore only white muslin dresses. Today, we know muslin more readily in a denser weave of bleached or unbleached serviceable material that was used for backing quilts and making sheets, curtains, aprons, nightgowns, and undergarments.

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This photo shows the reverse side of the dress with the cartridge pleats at the waist. You can also see the ties that fasten the dress at the back neckline. All is hand sewn.

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The hem is reinforced with a denser cotton which gives the dress more body to hold its flared skirt. This is different from the airy flowing Regency styles shown above.

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Here is the condition of the dress when I received it, after a light laundering. The hem is adorned with two self fabric bias cut bands edged with tiny white braid at the top of each band. Some of the thread holding the bands in place has rotted away, leaving the bands loose and with frayed edges.

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A close-up shows the delicate print of white circles on the pale lavender muslin. It is faded with a few sections showing more color. The top band is newly sewn while the bottom band is tacked in place with pins to position it for hand sewing.

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Hannah Lavender’s wardrobe consists of the featured red dress and lavender muslin dress. She wears a knee-length chemise and ankle-length split drawers under her muslin dress. There is also a cream wool narrow petticoat with a cotton waistband, two coarser made short dresses (one in off-white with black velvet bands at the hem, one in pink with white stripes) and a soft muslin nightgown with a pink satin ribbon. She also has a straw bonnet with blue silk lining, which is cracked at the brim. The added brown velvet cap with red flowers compliments the red dress.

 

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Hannah Lavender is sweet and demure with her freshly mended dress. Though stable, the crack in the wax on her forehead is evidence of her age and endurance.

 

Finding an antique doll with her original wardrobe is exciting! Some dolls had several dresses and accompanying clothing made within a few years as their young mistresses learned sewing skills. Other dolls, as seems to be the case with Hannah Lavender, had clothing evidencing styles from a wider span of years and sewing skill level. The styles and construction are indeed a delight to behold, learn from, and speculate about.

 

Please Come to Tea, Part 2: Little Toy Dishes

Antique Photo girl with big hair bow toy tea with bisque doll

Little child-sized and toy dishes were made in abundance in England’s Staffordshire district potteries, especially throughout the 19th century. Staffordshire, which is a district of six towns on the western edge of England near Wales, was well suited to the pottery industry because of the ready availability of clay, salt, lead, and coal. As with Thuringia (Germany) being a center of toymaking before the advent of the china dolls made there, Staffordshire made pottery before the advent of porcelain. It was a center for pottery production since the early 17th century, noted for reddish brown wares. In 1720, potter John Astbury discovered that adding heated flint to the clay produced a more desirable lighter clay known as creamware. Soon after this discovery, beautiful English made pottery began to grace the tables of well-to-do families in England and America. Of course, modifications to the pottery continued to improve and add variations from soft paste or semi-porcelain, to ironstone and fine bone china.

Antique feather edge and creamware shards

18th century creamware and feather edge shards

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The two little 3″ Leeds feather edged plates, circa 1790-1800

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This tiny cup, saucer, and teapot are all hand painted. Though not part of the same set, the painting and color are similar enough on both that they display well together. The London style handleless cup and deep dish saucer date to 1810. The cup is only 1 5/8″ tall. The pot is pearlware dating to about 1820. It has the characteristic ball shape, raised rim, slightly curved spout, and plain handle of early English teapots.  It is 4″ tall.

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This photo shows the size of these little dishes, and how they display with an antique china doll. Moira is a stout 19″ tall. Her hair style is a molded snood. She is planning to have tea at home with no guests–she is wearing her morning dress with tiny waived braid (rickrack) trim.

Thanks to the Children

Children’s and toy dishes were made alongside those created for adults. The play dishes, then as now, were a whimsy that delighted adults as well as children. Dinner and tea sets were charming gifts for children from parents, grandparents, and adoring aunts and uncles. And so, we can thank these wealthy and merchant class children for the little dishes that have been cherished, and those that have made it through well preserved (or not), and passed down through time to become available to us, as admirers and collectors in our time.

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Two sugar boxes or bowls. First is a beige rectangular one with an Adam Buck transfer from about 1820. The lid is missing its finial, and is actually the matching teapot lid, which was the same size-it has a steam hole in the opposite side. Second is a circa 1835 hand painted bowl with pink luster trim. Both are small (doll sized)  at about 2 1/2″ tall.

The poor children, though, deserve just as much, if not more, thanks for our little whimsies. Poor children have always had to work just as soon as their parents could find employment for them, and the Staffordshire potteries did offer employment for many children throughout the 19th century. Children as young as five or six years could fetch, carry, prepare raw materials, and provide power for the few machines that potters used. Many children at age eight to ten were working 72 hour weeks to the detriment of their health and education. At age 14, most children working in potteries became apprenticed to a particular trade-thrower, presser, transferer, or paintress. In 1840 Parliamentary inquiries were made into the state of children employed in mines and factories, leading to child labor laws.

Applying transfers

Preparing plates for transfers which were applied on tissue paper

 

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Two sugar bowls dating 1835-1840 have light blue transfers. The lids for both have not survived. These bowls without the lids measure 3″ tall by 4″ wide, and 2 1/2″ tall by 5″ wide.

To Teach, to Play, to Cherish

With so much to teach the young ones in the way of ettiquette, it was inevitable for child sized and toy tea and dinner sets to become more readily available. Children learned rituals and manners by having dinner or tea parties with their peers or by serving their dolls.

 

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Girl with a Goat is a pattern dating 1860 to 1870. Notice the fancy handle on the cup. This transfer is a pleasant forest green. The set was also made in red and a lovely flow blue, and I saw one for sale in an amazing mulberry color. It is a child sized set with the saucer being 5″ in diameter.

The 1860’s marked the start of mass production of toy dishes. After this time, parents could be more generous with their children with gift giving. An 1890 Butler Brothers catalog is evidence that there were toy sets available for the taste and means of every family. Children’s tea sets were available in price from five cents to five dollars. By studying the quality of sets we find today, we can guess which ones were at which end of this spectrum!

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This doll “house” with the 8″ Ginny and Muffy dolls always photographs dark. You can see the two Fishers plates on their shelf. Barely over 2″ across, one is red and one is blue. Below is a slightly larger plate with a blue floral transfer.

Transferware became the decoration of choice for English pottery after its development in the second half of the 18th century. Early designs were based on Chinese designs, called Chinoiserie. Early transferware was blue because only underglaze cobalt blue could withstand the heat of the glost ovens. Lead oxide gave wares the characteristic depth of color that made them so successful.

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Examples of early blue transfers, circa 1830 to 1840. The Kite Flyer plate on the stand to the right is a favorite colonial scene. The other scenic transfer is Monastery on the Hill. The transfers on this pattern are often more clear, and it has a nice floral border. These are doll sized dishes. The little tureen is just 3″ across.

By 1800 some English scenes became available as transfer designs. After the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, there was a trade boom and European scenes and subjects were in vogue. Pieces made for export to America were often very dark blue, and some had patriotic subjects.

Later developments allowed for other monochrome colors in transferware such as green, mild red known as puce, mulberry, black, and sepia or brown. Polychrome designs were made by adding painted colors over a transfer design.

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The sepia color Dresden Flowers teapot is circa 1830. It has a flanged rim with a well-fitting recessed lid. It is 2 5/8″ tall. The vegetable bowl, also in sepia, is Souveneir and dates 1830-1840. It is 4″ across. Both of these little treasures are perfect in the 1:4 scale doll house.

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These plates in graduated sizes are also Dresden Flowers like the teapot above. This transfer is moss green, though this pattern has not been recorded as available in green. The largest plate measures 3 1/2″ in diameter.

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These soft paste plates are not a recorded pattern, though they have the characteristics of toy Staffordshire. 3″ and 3 1/4″

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A desirable transferware sheet pattern in soft paste dating circa 1830’s, Dimity is found most often in blue. This green collection shows some breaks and blurring to the transfers, which is typical, as these were considered as play dishes and were meant to be inexpensive toys. Dimity has been found in puce, sepia, and black as well as blue and green.

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This blue May with Pets sugar pot (or biscuit jar) is from around 1880. It measures just under 5″ to the top of the lid. The other tall sugar pot shares a shape, or blank, with several documented tea sets from circa 1862. I have not found this red transfer of oak leaves and acorns in the reference books. This one has seen rough times with a broken handle and missing lid. It is 4″ tall without the lid.

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This pattern, a lovely example of transfer with hand painting and gold trim added, is called Amherst Japan. There is a child’s tea set in this pattern, circa 1854, but no mention of a child’s dinner set. This small tray may be a piece from a full size dinner set. It measures 6″ across.

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The Amherst Japan tray is the right size to be a serving piece in the 1:4 doll house. It is shown here with two pieces of the French set that is described below.

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While Staffordshire is the place for children’s play dishes, there were lovely sets from other places as well. These tureens are part of a set made in France. The pottery, known as “Old Paris,” is very white, and the red and gold painted accents are quite detailed. The finials are two nobs that look like hops berries. The tureens date circa 1870-1880 and measure 5″ across.

Toy Copeland Lavender Leaf dish set

This lovely Lavender Leaf partial dinner set has recently joined my collection. I love how well made it is. The transfer pattern is clear and sharp, the deep lavender blue color is superb, and the little dishes are even and not too heavy. It dates to 1840-1850 and is doll sized. The square covered dish is just 2 3/4″ across.

For Your Pleasure and Continued Education

Staffordshire has been home to well known potteries such as Wedgwood, Copeland, and Ridgway, as well as to hundreds of small firms that have come and gone through the years. The variety and patterns available for antique toy Staffordshire dishes are too numerous to document–more are being discovered now, and several that I have shown you here are not in the reference books. The best reference books with color illustrations are Doris Lecher’s English Toy China, and Lorraine Punchard’s Playtime Pottery and Porcelain. Find them new and/or used from BN.com.

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These two child sized collections are displayed in a small cabinet. The top shelf holds blue and green tureens, cups, saucers, and plates from the Maidenhair Fern collection. Below it is a tea set with the transfer known as May with Pets. The tall sugar pot with this set is also referred to as a biscuit jar. Both sets date to 1880-1890.

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This is the large green Maidenhair Fern tureen. I especially like this find because it came with the pottery ladle! The ladles for dinner sets are rare because they were so easily broken. The tureen is 6 1/2″ long and the ladle measures 3 3/4″.

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This darling sugar jar is from the Old Mother Hubbard collection, circa 1870 to 1890. It is 4″ tall. One reference claims this is English while the other says American made.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I do not find toy Staffordshire at my local antique shops and sales. Luckily, it is fairly available on eBay and Ruby Lane, if one is not too discerning in searching for particular patterns and colors. When you are ready to shop for your own toy Staffordshire dishes, I highly recommend Nancy Barrister’s Ruby Lane shop, “Childhood Antiques.” She offers a good selection of antique children’s tea and dinner sets. Additionally, if your budget can only handle single pieces rather than sets, she has a good revolving selection on eBay at nbarrister. Nancy is a friendy and accomodating seller who provides professional packing for your treasures.

For a broader view of the scope of English toy china dishes, an observation of how they changed over the years, and more information on the makers of these pottery whimsies and their marks, I highly recommend two books:

  • English Toy China by Doris Anderson Lechler. 1989; Antique Publications, Marietta, Ohio.
  • Playtime Pottery & Porcelain from the United Kingdom & the United States by Lorraine Punchard. 1996; Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, PA.
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Miranda’s Humphrey’s Clock tea set is now complete. Here we have the last sugar bowl of our mystery grouping from Part 1 of this article, at circa 1900. It is open and intentionally has no lid. This sugar bowl is 2″ tall, while Miranda is 26″ tall.

Now that you are well on your way to appreciating Staffordshire children’s dishes, please come to tea and tell me about your observations and finds!