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."

Monday, February 28, 2011

"A Good Mind and Great Dimples" my tribute to Colin Firth

From Mr. Darcy to King George VI, Colin Firth has delivered consistently stellar performances.

Born September 10, 1960, in Grayshott, Hampshire, UK, Firth lived in Nigeria with his parents until he was four years old. He studied drama in London, and made his professional stage debut in 1983 as Guy Bennett in Another Country.

Firth received critical acclaim for his portrayal of a college professor struggling with the loss of his longtime partner in Tom Ford’s “ A Single Man”, garnered rave reviews on the stage for his performance in the London premiere of “Three Days of Rain” (1999) and in a production of Shakespeare's “Hamlet”(2001).

To many Jane Austen lovers, Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy. Though he had been acting for years before, Firth became famous "overnight," when he starred in the BBC television mini-series “Pride and Prejudice”.

The much-beloved Firth seemed destined for an Oscar ever since he hopped out of a pond as Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice" more than 15 years ago. "I've a feeling my career's just peaked," said Firth.

The serial is often associated with a scene in its fourth episode where a fully-dressed Darcy, having emerged from a swim in a lake, accidentally encounters Elizabeth. While many critics attributed the scene's appeal to Firth's sexual attractiveness and vice versa, Andrew Davies thought that it unwittingly "rerobed, not disrobed, Austen". When he originally wrote the scene (it was not part of Austen's novel), he did not intend to highlight a sexual connection between Elizabeth and Darcy but create "an amusing moment in which Darcy tries to maintain his dignity while improperly dressed and sopping wet".

In 2011, Firth added to his cache of awards for his turn in “ The King’s Speech”as George VI, the reluctant king of England, who overcame a serious stutter with the help of his speech therapist Lionel Liogue. In the role, Firth also struggles with doubts about his fitness to be Britain’s monarch.
He won the Oscar for Best Actor, a Golden Globe, a SAG award, and a Bafta, among others.

"While it is true that Firth is a handsome man and a first-rate smolderer, women fall for his difficult heroes for the same reason he does. Because they are complicated and conflicted. Because they are stubborn and principled. Because when you truly win them over, you have truly won.""All great actors have people who really follow their careers and enjoy their performances, but Colin somehow touches a deeper nerve. (Excerpts from - "A good mind and great dimples Colin Firth's 'Earnest' about the acting life" - San Diego Union-Tribune - Karla Peterson - 19 May 2002)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Portrait of Jenny Lind "The Swedish Nightingale"

Johanna Maria Lind, born October 6, 1820 in Stockholm, Sweden, grew up as the daughter of a struggling single mother. Lind lived at various times with her mother in a shelter for indigent women. During those very lonely days, she developed the habit of singing to herself or to a pet cat she had.

Dolls with this typical type of hair style are called "Jenny Lind". Shoulder head made from glazed china, hairstyle with middle parting, wavy long hairstrands that stand out at the sides rather widely, combed to the rear and shaped into a wreath.

One day when she was nine, an attendant to a Stockholm ballet dancer heard Lind singing through a window. The dancer in turn brought Lind to the director of Sweden's Royal Opera, who equally surprised when he heard her sing. Lind was enrolled in the opera's training program, and those around her began to realize that Lind's talent was something special.

Never classically attractive, lacking confidence in herself, and generally seeming shy and quiet to people she met, Lind was an entirely different person on stage. "I awoke this morning as one person and retired in the evening as another."

Typical Jenny Lind style chignon

Alt, Beck and Gottschalk ca. 1870

Possibly A B & G... Jenny Lind doll ca. 1870's

"La Sonnambula "

Lind embarked on an international career, and while performing in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1843 attracted romantic attention from writer Hans Christian Andersen, an episode that was later turned into an opera of its own.

"Hans Christian Andersen", by Albrecth Jensen ca. 1836

Andersen often fell in love with unattainable women . One of his stories, "The Nightingale", was a written expression of his passion for Lind, and became the inspiration for her nickname, the "Swedish Nightingale". Andersen was often shy around women and had extreme difficulty in proposing to Lind. When Lind was boarding a train , Andersen gave Lind a letter of proposal. Her feelings towards him were not the same; she saw him as a brother, writing to him in 1844. farewell... God bless and protect my brother is the sincere wish of his affectionate sister, Jenny."

Jenny Lind by Alfred Lemon

Despite Lind’s respectable image, during the time she lived in Munich a prominent intellectual introduced her to Felix Mendelssohn, one of the greatest composers of the era. Despite Mendelssohn's happy marriage, the two shared a romantic attraction.

Jenny Lind as " MARIA, LA FIGLIA DEL REGGIMENTO" by Romage

Lind made her long-delayed English debut in May of 1847, before the cream of Victorian society, and went on to sing and to enchant Queen Victoria herself. It was in England, not America, that Jenny Lind mania really had its start.
But it took the fine art of American publicity to raise it to a new level.

Jenny Lind paper doll and trusseau

"Snuff Box"

"First Apperance Of Jenny Lind In America...Currier & Ives"

During the brief American phase of her career, between September of 1850 and May of 1852. Her trip to the United States was organized by the great showman Phineas T. Barnum, best remembered today by the circus that bears his name; He may never have had a greater triumph than his launch of Lind's tour. Tickets for her concerts reached astronomical prices, and her image soon adorned an incredible range of consumer items. Barnum profited handsomely, and Lind became perhaps the first person who could be described using the distinctly modern term "celebrity."

As Lind made triumphant appearances in New York and then toured the eastern seaboard and the cities along the Mississippi River, the British Jenny Lind mania was repeated and amplified. The later parts of her tour brought Lind one unexpected benefit; she married on February 5, 1855 and returned to Europe settling in Dresden, Germany. She had two sons and a daughter and by that time, the family had moved to Lind's beloved England.

Jenny Lind China shoulder head with cloth body, and leather lower arms...Possibly Conta Boehme.

The rest of her life was fairly quiet, although Lind numbered Queen Victoria and Prince Albert among their family friends. Living at first in the London suburb of Wimbledon, Lind later moved to the Malvern Hills in the rural Shropshire region. She suffered from cancer in the 1880s and died on November 2, 1887.


The Figurehead of a Nightingale

In 1851, the Nightingale left its berth place in Eliot, Maine. It was towed up to Boston, Mass.. Owners planned to use clipper to whisk 50 first-class passengers to the London World's Fair. In Boston the carved figurehead of a woman resembling the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind was added. At least, that's what Karl-Eric Svardskog , antique collector believes.

Sold to owner after owner, the Nightingale was for a time the property of the United States Navy and used to haul coal. Then it was reduced to transporting lumber when it was finally abandoned off Norway in 1894. By this time both PT Barnum and Jenny Lind were dead. In 1994 antiques hunter Svardskog heard about the large wooden carving shaped like a woman that it was once used as a scarecrow.
He found it in a hayloft, one arm sticking out of the hay, where it had apparently lain for a century. Compelled to track down the origin of the life-sized ship's figurehead, Svardskog searched six years for clues to its origin.
In his research, Svardskog discovered that the Nightingale had actually been in the vicinity of the town where the figurehead was discovered. In 1874, workers had refit the ship in Norway nearby. The bow of the ship was damaged so it seemed that the Jenny Lind figurehead was removed during the repair work, and did not go down with the ship years later.

To say the antique dealer became obsessed with his wooden Jenny is no exaggeration. Like a modern day PT Barnum, Karl-Eric Svardskog brought the statue back to America in 2001, and after uncrating the heavy statue, Svardskog in gazed at the now familiar image. "She haunts me," he said. "She is like a ghost."

Jenny, like a ghost, did not respond.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Beautiful and Intriguing Portrait Dolls"

Many china and parian doll heads, especially those with unusual hair styles, are called "Portrait Dolls" and are named for those they are supposed to resemble: Queen Victoria, Mary Todd Lincoln, Dolly Madison, Countess Dagmar, Jenny Lind, Adelina Patti, and Alice in Wonderland. It is unlikely that these ever were actual portraits. Doubtless some fancied resemblance to a hairstyle, or special jewelry or head gear that were well known attributes to the personality, has caused collectors to so name them as a way to differentiate them.
Portrait of famous dancer "Fanny Elssler", as "Cachucha"

"Fanny Elssler" possibly Alt, Beck Gottschalck ca. 1850


Queen Victoria and the Princess Royal Victoria ca. 1844

Young Queen Victoria shoulder-head

The artist doll-maker made a model shoulder head out of wax or even alabaster,
and as he was usually modeling the head of a woman, he was naturally influenced by the current ideal of female beauty, as seen in drawings and later at the end of the period, from photographs of beautiful women of the times.
This same idea of classical beauty can be seen in numerous statues and busts.

"Countess Dagmar" The House of Romanovs family album.

"Countess Dagmar" shoulder-head ca. 1865

"Sophia Smith" type shoulder-head showing the style of vertical curls. Possibly Kister ca. 1840

Sophia Smith, founder of Smith College for women.
The dolls I will be featuring in the next few posts fall in the category of “Portrait Dolls” and have been associated with various famous characters. So as long as the collector remembers this was only a convenient way of distinguishing different types of moulds, and not label them as true character dolls... there is no harm done.
These are merely an interpretation of an ideal of feminine beauty.

"Mary Todd Lincoln" Alt, Beck and Gottschalck manufacturers ca. 1865

Mary Todd, wife of Abraham Lincoln.

These rare dolls can still be found, and although very costly, are well worth having. The market indicates that Portrait Dolls will always hold their value, and most likely always fetch a high price.