Friday, December 26, 2008

Colorful OOAK rice paper Geisha Dolls present interesting look at Japanese history

I think I could spend days doing nothing but exploring so many beautiful artist creations up on Etsy! These beautifully detailed geisha dolls created from polymer and colorful rice paper captivated me as soon as I saw them. I have several traditional geisha dolls that I purchased in Kyoto, Japan when I had the wonderful opportunity to visit there as a member of one of the first trade teams for alfalfa products (my husband and I were ranchers in eastern Oregon at the time) in 1982. Although my dolls have the traditional brocade silk kimonos, I loved the kaleidoscope of color and artful folding of the rice paper costumes of these dolls. Each of these dolls is produced as a OOAK made to each buyer's specifications. I also collect historical samurai warrior figures. I wonder if the artist has ever had a request for one of them?

"The 18th and 19th century produced in Japan an art, Ukiyo-e, representing the "floating world" --ephemeral, this was the world of the Kabuki theater, with its favorite actors and their fans, and of the Geisha.

Dolls were certainly loved by the geishas themselves, and were as fashionable as all their other pastimes. The name now given to a doll representing a child, Ichimatsu, comes from the name of an actor, and the first dolls of this type represented a male actor in his checked ("ichimatsu") costume.

As the floating world floated away in the 20th century, doll art still commemorates the beauties and beloved dramatis personae of the Ukiyo.

This is my lovely geisha, inspired by the traditional japanese 'paper dolls' and kimono dolls.

Her head, torso, hands and feet are sculpted of polymer clay. Her body is a wire armature, wrapped in cotton.

The geisha's kimono is entirely created from beautifully printed chiyogami rice paper.

Her face is handpainted, and her hair is made from rolled black velvet. She wears a 'comb' in her hair and a lacquer butterfly. "

A San Francisco artist, BlossomandWillow, works with clay, fabric and beautiful Japanese papers to create her geisha dolls.

"I find the art of Japan and the world of the geisha - what they call 'The Floating World' or 'Flower and Willow World' fascinating and drew the inspiration for my shop from that lovely concept. Here you will find original art and sculpture, as well as fine art supplies, lovely Japanese paper,and authentic vintage kimono and accessories from Japan."

Painted tintypes source of inspiration for this doll artist

Yet another Etsy artist, Photopaint, that caught my eye offered this interesting little cloth doll created from a painted tintype.

"This little darling which I have named Matilda, sits atop your table or dresser amongst treasured items and is flat on the bottom. She is solidly stuffed and reinforced on the bottom with a stiff piece of cardboard. I triple stitch this doll for durability.
She measures 5.25" tall and 3.00" at the base and is very 3D.
The bottom is hand stitched with a beautiful black cut away velvet cotton piece of cloth.
I have sewn on little beads into her neck where her necklace is in the photo to give an added touch.

I am going to be making more in different sizes and types so keep an eye out for my little unique cloth dolls.

Doll comes with a beautiful hand made tag with her name and number as these will be a limited edition doll."

An artist from Sedona, "Photopaint" loves to paint in all mediums but especially photographic/mixed media with paint.

"I also love to paint over photos that I take after I print them on canvas or another paper. I love flowers and circus and theater images and also love to draw and paint out of my head with no reference to just be in the creative flow."

Most tintypes I have seen usually feature Civil War soldiers but now I will have to keep my eye out for the more endearing ones like the little girl that was the subject of the tintype used to create this doll. I attended a workshop on "painting" digital images with Photoshop using a Wacom digital art tablet down at Photoshop World in Las Vegas in September. As a digital photographer I am always looking for ways to use my images in artistic ways. This example gave me lots of ideas!!

Beaded doll artist produces stunning OOAK

Another stunning doll I found on Etsy is this hand-beaded Ahotep Ancient Egyptian Doll produced by JuliesBeadedElements. The diamond-patterned turquoise gown overlay looks very similar to actual beaded burial shrouds I have seen in the Egyptian galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

"This doll was formerly a Tonner, Jac doll. I have removed all of her original face paint, and re-painted her face with artist quality, Golden, paints and sealers. I carefully sectioned, and braided her hair in the ancient Egyptian wig style, however, it is her rooted hair that I braided, and not a wig. Each braid is fully knotted with fireline thread that will not degrade over time.
The layered gown is constructed completely with beads, treated thread, and fireline. The beads that are used in this garment are gold plated brass, glass Czech beads, Delica seed beads, and gold plated seed beads. This gown is not removable, it has been woven to fit her body, and does not stretch at all. This also means that the weight of the beads will not stretch out the garment. The base of the gown was created with a right angle weave, and the outer layer was woven in a netting weave. The bottom panel is constructed using a peyote stitch, done in a traditional, ancient Egyptian, geometric pattern.
The headband is removable, and has an Egyptian, Phoenix symbol on it that is gold plated. The woven bead bracelets are not removable. The arm band is made of gold filled wire. The beaded shoes, doll and stand are all included with this sale. Also included is a signed, ceritificate of authenticity."

Julie, a mother of five, has worked as a jewelry designer in Chicago as well as a clothing designer and manager of a custom clothing store:

"Ever since I can remember- I have been creating something. I studied different forms of art expression, and majored in fashion design in college. Being juried into a national gallery exhibit when I was 16 gave me the motivation to continue as a serious artist from a young age. My work profile includes working as a jewelry designer for a prestigious jeweler in Water Tower Place, Chicago. My additional experience includes working as a custom clothing designer/trainer (also on the magnificent mile) and as the manager of a custom clothing store.
Currently, I teach beadwork techniques, and jewelry-making techniques in my small bead shoppe. My experience with expecting, and presenting quality has lead me on to be very concerned with making a work of art that is nothing less than beautiful, durable, and unique.

I have won design contests for my beaded art, most notably a gold medal win in a recent international beading contest. "

UneekDollDesigns offers detailed peg doll miniatures

I was reading an article about the retail success of craft outlets despite the current economic slump and it mentioned the Etsy website that featured handcrafted gifts. I had never heard of it and thought I would go up and look around. Naturally I spotted the dolls category and the miniatures category under it. To my great excitement I saw they have a historical miniatures category.

The first vendor I looked at, UneekDollDesigns, offered small 4 3/4" peg doll-style creations with wonderfully detailed costumes. Some of my favorites included:

Mary Boleyn (mistress to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn's sister):

"Mary is dressed in royal blue velvet accented in silver and rhinestone trim. I hand painted her face and she has soft, golden red hair topped with a beaded head piece. Mary would be a perfect collectible for any Tudor history lover, or a very pretty addition to a doll house or shelf display.She stands only 4 and 3/4 inches tall."

Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary - daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon):

"Mary I (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558), was Queen of England and Queen of Ireland from 19 July 1553 until her death. The fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, she is remembered for restoring England to Roman Catholicism after succeeding her short-lived half brother, Edward VI, to the English throne. In the process, she had almost 300 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian Persecutions, resulting in her being called Bloody Mary. Her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her successor and half-sister, Elizabth I."

"She is fashioned in her royal Tudor costume designed in black and white underskirt with crushed black velvet overskirt. Decked in glittering silver trim and pearl accents, she's an eye catching royal in spite of her not so pleasant reputation! Mary stands about 4 and 3/4 inches tall."

Cleopatra VII, Queen of the Nile (and seductress of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony!):

"One of the most famous ,yet mysterious rulers of Egypt, Cleopatra has intrigued historians for many years. She was known not just for her seductiveness and beauty, but also her ability to rule. She had a child with Julias Caesar, and later had 3 children with Marc Antony, whom she was married to. She met an unfortunate end when she found out Marc Antony was dead and tradition says she died by purposely letting a snake bite her.

Cleopatra is designed with a full Egyptian queen regalia. Her white robe is accented with gold trim. She is showing off her cloak trimmed in silver and gold trim. Cleo wears a gold head dress studded with a blue jewel stone. She stands a petite 4 and 1/3 inches tall. "

UneekDollDesigns also creates commissioned miniatures on request such as this wonderful William Shakespeare.

"My trademark I am most known for is not using a pattern for any of my designs on anything. I guess I just prefer to picture it, then try various techniques to get what effect I want!

My miniature dolls were actually made when I needed some characters to put in a couple of fancy dollhouses that were being designed as a special gift. Not finding any characters that I liked, I started making my own, starting with a basic wooden clothespin. The rest is using my imagination, lots of fabric, and other creative materials!

My greatest pleasure in doing my hand crafted items is seeing other people derive pleasure from them, too!"

I know I derived a lot of pleasure just looking at all of the different people from history, hollywood, and literature that she created! The dolls are also reasonably priced averaging $20 each (some a little more and some a little less).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gene dolls reflect their glamorous Hollywood origins

When I first began collecting historical dolls and focused on dolls representing people from ancient history, I successfully bid on a Gene doll dressed as the "Daughter of the Nile". She remains one of my favorites but I really didn't know that much about the history behind this particular Gene incarnation until I read a vendor's description of another "Daughter of the Nile" offered for sale recently on Ebay:

Gene was the conception of fashion illustrator Mel Odom and produced by The Ashton-Drake Galleries.

Gene is 15-1/2" of poseable, collector-quality vinyl with a finish that mimics fine porcelain; hand painted features, hand-applied lashes, period coiffure rooted and styled by hand; wardrobe crafted of quality fabrics like those worn by real Hollywood stars of the era; Impeccable tailoring details - hand-sewn fastenings, fully lined dresses, seamed hose; fabulous accessories designed precisely to scale.

"Daughter of the Nile" is dressed in an exotic Egyptian gown, reminiscent of the alluring costumes creased for the historical epic movies so popular in their time, circa 1952.

The gown is hand-beaded with faux gold, turquoise, coral and lapis lazuli on a sheath dress of silk crepe, lined in pale silk. Finely pleated, the sheer turquoise chiffon robe ripples as fluidly as the Nile.

Includes gold metallic sandals, dangle earrings, and hand-beaded bracelets, headdress and arm bands.

Her raven hair spills in soft waves past her sholders. Two braids woven with gold cords cast an exotic allure - designed by renowned fashion artist Timothy Alberts.

The story of Gene is that of Hollywood star Katie Marshall, who, after she was discovered by a famous Hollywood producer, adopted her beloved grandfather's name, Gene - because he had always encouraged her to follow her dream to stardom.

In a bid to lure back audiences from television, Monolithic Studios poured millions of dollars and an all-star cast of thousands into a stupendous historical epic called, "The Daughter of the Nile". They cast Marshall as the female lead, the number one box office draw, and it became one of Monolithic's greatest successes."

I did a little more research and found a "Gene chronology" supposedly compiled by doll producer Mel Odom. Gene was "born" April 17, 1923. Her "career", as represented in her various costumes, spans from 1941 - 1962. The "Daughter of the Nile" doll is supposed to represent her costume from a film produced in 1952 in which she plays "a priestess torn between the Pharaoh’s will and her destiny of love." The doll, designed by Timothy Alberts, was released in 1998. It was officially retired 2/12/2000.

I bought another Gene doll dressed in a 194os-era army-style uniform at a local doll show. I looked through the list of Gene dolls on the chronology website and I think it must be the Gene USO doll representing the year 1944. I found this picture on an Ebay auction that looks like my doll except I don't have the USO arm band. The doll was not in a box when I purchased it so it could have been mislaid. It was designed by Doug James and released in 1999. I display her with my Effanbee General Douglas MacArthur.

I also bought a Gene as the Blue Goddess [right] in an Ebay auction. I especially liked it because it reminded me of the goddesses of Greek mythology. It was designed by Tim Kennedy in 1996 and represented Gene in one of her first color films, about the stolen Blue Goddess diamond. Audiences knew the real Blue Goddess was Gene. This doll was retired in June 1999.

Odom also produced a male companion for Gene named Trent. I bought a Trent styled in a costume of historical India from the 20th century Fox film "The Rains Came". I think he looks very dashing in his brocade frock coat and his rakish satin turban!

Vintage 1967 Williamsburg Paper Doll collection comes up for bid on Eby

I noticed this interesting box of Williamsburg Paper Dolls came up for bid on Ebay:

8 paper dolls and 8 sets of costumes that are die-cut with introduction to 18th century costumes. The figures are from the film, “Williamsburg—The Story of a Patriot,” a film they must have shown to visitors at Williamsburg. The names of the paper dolls are John Fry, a young planter and legislator; his mother; his wife, Anne; their children, Robert and Caroline; their Negro servants, Cato and Virginia; and a pre-Revolutionary officer, Captain Nicholas.

The box says: Trademark of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1967, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, No. 8-171.

The "buy it now" price was listed at $19.99.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Don't miss "A Child’s Eye View" exhibit at Williamsburg if you're nearby during the holidays

Doll in gownMy husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Williamsburg for a day some years ago and since then I have supported the work of the Williamsburg Foundation in preserving history and creating learning opportunities for all ages. So, I receive email updates each month and the update for this month mentioned that Williamsburg is hosting a marvelous exhibit of historical dolls and toys at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. You enter the museum through the Public Hospital of 1773.

What a doll. She's a tall, slender beauty with flowing tresses and shining eyes and a Mona Lisa smile. She's got it all: gently arching eyebrows, shapely legs, petite fingers and feet. And what a wardrobe—a lace-trimmed dress of watered silk, a satin petticoat, two white undercoats, whalebone stays at her tapered waist, fancy silk socks inside brocaded shoes, and a robe in rainbow hues with sleeves turned back for a flirty glimpse of forearms. A doll indeed. She's carved of wood with a face of gesso and languid eyes of glass that would steal Ken from Barbie any day.

Not to be catty, but Barbie is, after all, in her fifties—all the more galling to lose a boyfriend to a rival in her 200s. Barbies by the thousands stare through plastic on the crowded shelves of today's cacophonous super toy stores. Her colonial counterparts may have sat among the bonnets and purses on a shelf of the millinery shop in Williamsburg, whose proprietor, Margaret Hunter, advertised "a variety of Toys, dressed and undressed Babies, Green Silk Purses etc." in the Virginia Gazette of October 15, 1772. Lucky was the little girl—and well-heeled her family, no doubt—who was given this stylish lady as a toy.

[Left - Bewigged and begowned in lace and embroidered silk, this doll, now
in Colonial Williamsburg's collections, must have been the treasure of some eighteenth-century girl. Photo by Hans Lorenz.]

The Williamsburg website has a wealth of slides shows, videos and podcasts about their living museum, costumes of the period, daily life in Colonial America, and politics of the Revolutionary Period. I particularly enjoyed their interactive slide show on colonial fashion. It includes a range of clothing from elaborate silk gowns of the wealthy elite to the rather risque attire of a bar maid (or prostitute I wasn't quite sure - she looked very much like a 21st century teen decked out in Gothic dress complete with black lipstick)

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Historical Biblical Dolls

I was checking for an address for the Hamilton Collection today and noticed that their latest offerings include a "Little Drummer Boy" porcelain doll in 1st century dress. This 11 1/2" porcelain doll was created by award-winning artist and sculptor Titus Tomescu. I thought he looked very endearing.

I have several other dolls in my collection that include the Biblical characters Ruth (right), Judith and Mary Magdalene. They are each 22" tall and were produced by World Gallery. I also have the character dolls that were sold in conjunction with the release of the animated feature film "Prince of Egypt". That group includes a young Moses dressed as a prince of Egypt, Tzipporah, the shepherdess who became his wife, and an older Moses in desert robes. They were produced by Hasbro. I bought mine on Ebay and paid less than $20 each for them but I see they are now being offered on Amazon for $49.95. Apparently they were not produced in great numbers and have passed into the realm of "collectible".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Did Mattel Rerelease "Great Eras" Historical Barbies?

I was surprised this morning to see that Amazon is now offering the "Great Eras" Barbies for sale (again). They listed the Great Eras Elizabethan Barbie for $24.95. I did a quick check and saw that most of the original "Great Eras" Barbies are available. They must have been rereleased by Mattel because I bought mine years ago and they were offered on Ebay at the time as "vintage" items even then. They are really quite nice. The only one whose costume is not terribly realistic is the Great Eras Egyptian Queen although it is quite pretty. My favorites are the Elizabethan Queen, the French Queen and the Medieval Queen. As you can see by the photo above left, the French Queen's costume is historically pretty accurate if you compare it to the costumes of the ladies of Napoleon's court shown in the painting by G. Rouget. Of course they're not as elaborate as the recent collector's edition Elizabeth I, Marie Antoinette and Josephine Bonaparte but they are nicely detailed (and don't cost over $200 each! - although I managed to get my collectors edition historical queens on sale for quite a bit less).

I received my Barbie collector's edition catalog last night and see that they have a new line of DC Comic book hero Barbies that, although not technically historical (except culturally!), are really fun with detailed costumes. I think I'm going to have to make an exception to my historical rule and add these to my collection as well. I wasn't familiar with the "Black Canary" but really liked the Wonder Woman, Bat Girl, and Super Girl. When I went up to see if I could get a better deal up on Amazon I see that there is also a Cat Woman that looks interesting as well!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Samurai Toyotomi Hideyoshi joins Dragon In Dreams Figure Lineup

I was very excited to see that Dragon In Dreams has released another Samurai 12" figure! I have their first Samuari, Takeda Shingen, and the detail is incredible! I usually like to take my figures out of their boxes for display purposes but the armor and real metal weapons are so detailed I didn't want to take a chance on losing anything so I have him displayed in the box with his rearing horse, wearing an embroiderd silk saddle, still in the box next to him.

The new figure is Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a Sengoku period daimyo who unified Japan. He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period,
after Hideyoshi's castle. He is noted for a number of cultural legacies,
including the restriction that only members of the samurai class could bear
Around 1557 he returned to Owari and joined the Oda clan, now headed
by Oda Nobunaga, as a lowly servant. He became one of Nobunaga's
sandal-bearers and was present at the Battle of Okehazama in 1560 when
Nobunaga defeated Yoshimoto to become one of the most powerful warlords
in the Sengoku period. In 1561, Hideyoshi married Nene.
Hideyoshi was very successful as a negotiator. In 1564 he managed to convince,
mostly with liberal bribes, a number of Mino warlords to desert the Saito clan.
Hideyoshi approached many Saito clan samurai and convinced them to submit to
Nobunaga, including the Saito clan's strategist Takenaka Hanbei. Nobunaga's easy
victory at Inabayama Castle in 1567 was largely due to Hideyoshi's efforts, and
despite his peasant origins, Hideyoshi became one of Nobunaga's most
distinguished generals.
In 1583, Hideyoshi began construction of Osaka Castle. Built on the site of the
temple Ishiyama Honganji destroyed by Nobunaga, the castle would become the
last stronghold of the Toyotomi clan after Hideyoshi's death.
Hideyoshi sought the title of shogun in order to be truly considered the active ruler
of Japan. However, the emperor did not grant that title to Hideyoshi. In 1586,
Hideyoshi was formally given the name Toyotomi by the imperial court.
In 1590 Siege of Odawara against the Late Hojo clan in Kanto eliminated the
last resistance to Hideyoshi's authority. His victory signified the end of the Sengoku
Toyotomi Hideyoshi died in September 1598. His death was kept extremely secret
by the Council of Five Elders to preserve morale. It was not until late October that
they sent a decree to the Japanese commanders to withdraw. After his death, the
other members of the Council of Five Regents were unable to keep the ambitions of
Tokugawa Ieyasu in check. Two of Hideyoshi's top generals Kato Kiyomasa and
Fukushima Masanori had fought bravely during the war, but returned to find
Toyotomi clan bureaucrat Ishida Mitsunari in power. He held the generals in low
esteem, and they sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu. Hideyoshi's underaged son and
designated successor Hideyori lost the power his father once held, and Tokugawa
Ieyasu was declared shogun following the Battle of Sekigahara.

A quick check on Dragon In Dreams website shows they are also preparing to release Hideyoshi's liege lord as well - Oda Nobunaga

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Collection from Enchanted World of Dolls Goes Up For Bid

A number of years ago on my way back to Oregon from a trip to the east coast, I stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota and photographed a wonderful collection of dolls at the Enchanted World of Dolls Museum. Recently, with sadness, I noticed that the museum had closed.

Now I see that the former owner (I assume the Ebay seller is the museum owner) is beginning to auction off the dolls and its a rare opportunity to bid on some truly world class artist dolls. One of my eBay alerts watches for dolls of Mary Queen of Scots and I received an alert that a Kathy Redmond (one of my favorite doll artists) Mary Queen of Scots was coming up for bid. When I clicked on the link I saw that it was one of the marvelous dolls I had seen in Mitchell. Unfortunately, I'm now retired and with the economy in such a slump, I don't feel comfortable bidding on collectibles right now. There is also a reserve on the doll that apparently is above the current bid of $130. So I guess I will have to satisfy myself with admiring the doll from afar (again).

I see that in this first round there are also two of Emma Clear's meticulously created dolls of George and Martha Washington, too.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jenny Diver, 18th century thief, surfaces on Ebay

A dear English friend and fellow doll collector, Doris Howe, sent me a note about this interesting wax figurine of Jenny Diver that surfaced on Ebay. Apparently, Jenny Diver, whose real name was Mary Young, was an 18th century thief who made a lucrative living from stealing from the rich in London streets. She "became so expert in her profession as to acquire great consequence among her associates, who distinguished her by the appellation of "Jenny Diver" —- on account, as we conceive, of her remarkable dexterity." - The Newgate Calendar

She often posed as a pregnant woman to gain sympathy.

"Jenny, again assumed the appearance of a pregnant woman, and, attended by an accomplice, as a footman, went towards St James's Park on a day when the King was going to the House of Lords, and there being a great number of persons between the Park and Spring Gardens she purposely slipped down, and was instantly surrounded by many of both sexes, who were emulous to afford her assistance; but, affecting to be in violent pain, she intimated to them that she was desirous of remaining on the ground till she should be somewhat recovered. As she expected, the crowd in- creased, and her pretended footman and a female accomplice were so industrious as to obtain two diamond girdle-buckles, a gold watch, a gold snuff-box and two purses, containing together upwards of forty guineas.

Two of the gang being confined to their lodgings by illness, Jenny and the man with whom she cohabited generally went in company in search of adventures. They went together to Burr Street, Wapping, and, observing a genteel house, the man, who acted as Jenny's footman, knocked at the door, and saying that his mistress was on a sudden taken extremely ill, begged she might be admitted. This was readily complied with, and, while the mistress of the house and her maid-servant were gone upstairs for such things as they imagined would afford relief to the supposed sick woman, she opened a drawer and stole sixty guineas; and after this, while the mistress was holding a smelling-bottle to her nose, she picked her pocket of a purse, which, however, did not contain money to any considerable amount. In the meantime the pretended footman, who had been ordered into the kitchen, stole six silver tablespoons, a pepper-box and a salt-cellar. Jenny, pretending to be some- what recovered, expressed the most grateful acknowledgements to the lady, and, saying she was the wife of a capital merchant in Thames Street, invited her in the most pressing terms to dinner on an appointed day, and then went away in a hackney-coach, which by her order had been called to the door by her pretended servant." - The Newgate Calendar

She even practiced her art in America:

"She soon found that America was a country where she could expect but little emolument from the practices she had so successfully followed in England; and therefore she employed every art that she was mistress of to ingratiate herself in the esteem of a young gentleman who was preparing to embark on board a vessel bound for the Port of London. He became much enamoured of her, and brought her to England; but while the ship lay at Gravesend she robbed him of all the property she could get into her possession, and, pretending an indisposition, intimated a desire of going on shore, in which her admirer acquiesced: but she was no sooner on land than she made a precipitate retreat." The Newgate Calendar

Her life of crime was finally cut short when she was hanged in 1740.

"She now frequented the Royal Exchange, the theatres, London Bridge and other places of public resort, and committed innumerable depredations on the public. Being detected in picking a gentleman's pocket upon London Bridge, she was taken before a magistrate, to whom she declared that her name was Jane Webb, and by that appellation she was committed to Newgate. She was arraigned for privately stealing, and pronounced guilty. The property being valued at less than one shilling, she was sentenced to transportation.

A twelvemonth had not elapsed before she returned from transportation a second time, and on her arrival in London she renewed her former practices. A lady going from Sherborne Lane to Walbrooke was accosted by a man, who took her hand as if to assist her in crossing some planks that were placed over the channel for the convenience of passengers; but he squeezed her fingers with so much force as to give her great pain, and in the meantime Jenny picked her pocket of thirteen shillings and a penny. The gentlewoman, conscious of being robbed, seized the thief by the gown, and she was immediately conducted to the compter. She was examined the next day by the Lord Mayor, who committed her to Newgate in order for trial, and at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey she was tried on an indictment for privately stealing, and the jury brought in the verdict, "Guilty;" in consequence of which she received sentence of death.

After conviction she seemed sincerely to repent of the course of iniquity in which she had so long persisted, punctually attending prayers in the chapel, and employing great part of her time in private devotions. The day preceding that on which she was executed, she sent for the woman who nursed her thud, then about three years old, and after informing her that there was a person who would pay for the infant's maintenance, earnestly entreated that it might be carefully instructed in the duties of religion, and guarded from all temptations to wickedness, and then, after acknowledging that she had long been a daring offender against the laws, both of God and man, she entreated the woman to pray for the salvation of her soul; she then took her leave, apparently deeply impressed with the sentiments of contrition.

On the following morning she appeared to be in a serene state of mind: but being brought into the press-yard, the executioner approached to put the halter about her, when her fortitude abated: but in a short time her spirits were again tolerably composed.

She was conveyed to Tyburn in a mourning-coach, being attended by a clergyman, to whom she declared her firm belief in all the principles of the Protestant religion; and at the place of execution she employed a considerable time in fervent prayer. Her remains were, by her particular desire, interred in St. Pancras church-yard." The Newgate Calendar

In 1922, actress Angela Baddeley played the famous wench on the stage. Baddeley was invested as a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1975.

This piece must have been commissioned to commemorate her performance as it is engraved with her name and dated 1947(?) - it's a little hard to tell because the date seems to be combined with 1922. The Figurine stands 9 1/2" tall and is beautifully detailed with a plaintive expression on her face.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tin Figures Museum in the Netherlands displays meticulous figures and historical dioramas

I received an email from the manager of the 2clicks Collectibles Figurines website and when I browsed their interesting links I came upon a link for the Tin Figures Museum in The Netherlands. I not only found the examples of tin figures displayed on their website quite intricate but I was totally blown away by the fabulous dioramas that are used in their exhibits!

The dioramas, ranging in themes from the ancient world through sites of early modern history, were meticulously created by the late Dr. Wieringa of Haarlem, a Dutch mathematician. Of course with my passion for ancient Roman history, I couldn't help but be amazed by the scenery depicting gladiatorial games and Roman temples. He also designed detailed scenes of ancient Egypt, the Hanging Garden of Babylon, medieval Europe, the Renaissance, and the royal European courts of the 18th century as well.

If I ever get a chance to visit The Netherlands, I will make this museum a "must see" on my itinerary!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Xanthos Kontis Dolls Appear on Ebay

I was browsing the current historical doll offerings on Ebay the other day and came across several historical dolls produced by doll artist Xanthos Kontis in the 1950s. What caught my attention was the facial detail of the Benjamin Franklin doll and the felt coat with painted details. Several years ago I purchased a Benjamin Franklin doll that looked very similar to the one offered on Ebay except the coat was burgundy colored. The Ebay vendor that sold me the doll said it was a doll produced for the country's bicentennial in 1976 but maybe they were mistaken.

I searched the internet looking for more information about Xanthos Kontis and didn't find anything except more listings for other dolls he produced like the Father Knickerbocker (a character from a Washington Irving novel), at right and Thomas Jefferson and Father Juniper Serra, below). All I could find about the man (??) was a Pittsburg obituary for someone named Xanthos Kontis Contaridis dated November 4, 1994. This could be the right person based not only on his name but that one of the dolls offered on Ebay is a portrait of William Pitt - a historical character rarely encountered. It would be natural for a historical doll artist to produce a doll of the local favorite son. If anyone has any additional information about this doll artist I would be interested to learn more.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Kathy Redmond now offers dolls and porcelain busts directly from the artist online

I noticed today that consummate doll artist, Kathy Redmond, is now offering her work online both directly and through Ebay. She is currently offering an exquisite 16" doll of Czarina Alexandra Romanov. I only wish I could afford it. The opening bid is low but I know she has a very hefty reserve on the doll that places it out of my price range. However, I enjoyed looking at the pictures and dreaming!

When I clicked on the "Sellers other items" link I saw that she also had listed porcelain busts of the Czar and Czarina that, of course, were also beautifully done. I have managed to obtain only one doll produced by Kathy that is a commonly available small portrait doll of Alice Roosevelt that she created for the United Federation of Doll Clubs convention some years back.

I first noticed her work when I saw her Henry VIII and his wives (seen here is Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth and final wife) displayed in the collection of the Enchanted World of Dolls Museum in Mitchell, South Dakota. (Alas - I see they have closed their doors! What a pity! I enjoyed my visit there immensely. To see other dolls in their collection, view my Flickr set of images from the museum.)

According to Kathy's website, Kathy "is a sculptor based in the Kingston, PA area who makes hand-sculpted, porcelain-portrait figurines. She is a nationally known artist whose figurines adorn countless private collections. Her primary inspiration comes from historical personalities and entertainment figures of the modern era. She has honored hundreds of private commissions for familial (including bridal & baby) portraits.

She is most well known for her historical doll sculptures and has exhibited at twenty-eight national conventions of the “United Federation of Doll Clubs” covering twenty-one states. For six of these conventions, she has been commissioned to create a souvenir doll. She has also performed commissions for Tom Monaghan (former owner of the Detroit Tigers & Domino’s Pizza) and for the Franklin Mint...which consisted of a bisque porcelain sculpture of Marie Antoinette commissioned for the Bicentennial of the French Revolution (1789-1989) which was to be released in France only. Another work is that of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton which is being held for the opening of the Bill Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas.

She has also created exhibits of her work for several prestigious museums... including the “Victoria & Albert Museum”- Bethnal Green in London, England. Redmond Porcelain has been represented in multiple national newspapers and magazine articles and featured in the mainstream book market in collections of contemporary art."

Perhaps I will get to see more of her work if I manage to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum when I am in London later this summer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

London Design Centre produced beautifully detailed wood and cloth dolls in mid 1970s

I receive notices of particular historical figure dolls that are coming up for bid on Ebay and today I saw an English seller was offering some wonderfully detailed 12" dolls of King Charles II and one of his mistresses that were made in 1975 by the London Design Centre. I had never seen their dolls before and found them beautifully costumed with delicately painted wooden faces that I couldn't resist.

I searched for other dolls made by this firm and the only other search result I came up with was a clothespin doll of Jane Grey also made in the mid 1970s. I also noticed the company made things like coasters and little wooden double-decker London buses for the tourist market. As I was unable to find anything produced after the 70s, I assume the company is no longer in business but I will keep my eye out for any more of their dolls when I visit London in July.

I have a couple of Charles II dolls in my current collection - a Nisbet prototype and a 16" OOAK handmade doll by Chicago artist Mary Branca. Charles wore such flamboyant costumes that dolls of him are always so colorful and elaborate. This historical figure by artist George Stuart demonstrates the extent Charles would go to dazzle the ladies. Charles was also notorious for his bevy of mistresses.

" Monarchs and mistresses were an expected combination when royal wives were chosen for dynastic or political rather than for personal reasons. However, even by the permissive standards this implied, King Charles II (1630-1685) was an extraordinarily active monarch, who ran more than one mistress in harness at a time and made no secret of his fourteen illegitimate children. Charles started young, at eighteen, when he was in exile in France following Parliament's victory in the Civil War against his father, Charles I. There, in his idleness, Charles had little to do but womanise. The first pretty girl to catch his eye and the first of at least fifteen mistresses, was a Welshwoman, Lucy Walter whom he met in The Hague in the summer of 1648. Lucy took up with Charles shortly after his arrival , and in 1649 gave birth to his first child, James, later Duke of Monmouth. Lucy was her lover's constant companion, but he made the mistake of leaving her behind when he left The Hague in 1650. He returned to find she had been intriguing with a certain Colonel Henry Bennet. Charles ended the affaire there and then, leaving Lucy to a life of prostitution. She died, probably of venereal disease, in 1658.

Charles, meanwhile, moved on to other mistresses and enjoyed at least four more before his exile ended and he was recalled to England to become king in 1660. The list of illicit royal affaires burgeoned after that, and came to typify the unbuttoned society which grew up around the restored monarch. Joyless puritans did not berate Charles as 'that great enemy of chastity and marriage' for nothing, One of the spectacles at his court was Charles ' toying with his mistresses,' and surrounded by his favourite spaniels. For a scene of decadence, that took some beating.

Charles was not fussy about the status of his women. A pretty face and a comely figure were enough for a mistress to be taken on the strength, and he was particularly prone to actresses. . The stage provided a handy hunting- ground for the regular royal theatregoer, and it was here that Charles encountered Moll Davis in about 1667. Moll was a popular singer-dancer- comedienne, but she had her dark side. Mrs. Pepys, wife of Samuel Pepys the diarist, called her 'the most impertinent slut in the world' and she was grasping and vulgar with it. Moll flaunted her success as a royal mistress, showing off her 'mighty pretty fine coach' and a ring worth the then vast sum of £600.

Moll , who gave up the stage in 1668, had a daughter by Charles the following year but soon fell foul of Nell Gwynne, one of the King's concurrent mistresses, who had a wicked sense of humour. Hearing that Moll was due to sleep with the king on a night early in 1668, Nell invited her to eat some sweetmeats she had prepared. Unknown to Moll, her rival had mixed in a hefty dose of the laxative jalap. After that, the night in the royal bed did not exactly go as planned. Charles, too, had a sharp sense of humour, but this time, he was not amused and Moll was summarily dismissed. Being a generous man, though, Charles sent Moll packing with a pension of £1,000 a year...More" -

Charles was even a flashy dresser as a child as seen in this portrait of him with his siblings painted after Van Dyck in 1639:

Friday, May 09, 2008

Lee Ed's bisque shoulder head dolls

I noticed this interesting bisque doll by Lee Ed up on Ebay. Further research indicates Lee Ed produced a number of shoulder head bisque dolls in the mid 1950s. This particular doll, created in 1955, is Napoleon's first girlfriend and one-time fiancee, Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary. The doll is beautifully sculpted and detailed and measures 17" high. Since I spend most of my time studying the ancient world rather than Napoleon's era, I had never heard of her. Although she was engaged to Napoleon Bonaparte, she eventually married Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, and crowned Queen Desideria of Sweden.

Désirée Clary was born in Marseille, France, the daughter of François Clary, a wealthy silk manufacturer and merchant, and his second wife Françoise Rose Somis.

"Her husband was appointed governor of Hanover in 1804-1805, Prince of Pontecorvo 1806 and was one the leading generals in the French Napoleonic army; he was made heir to the Swedish throne in 1810 and, after success in war, to the Norwegian throne in 1814.

They had only one child, Oscar, who eventually became King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway (17991859).

Desirée visited Sweden for the first time in 1810 but could not accustom herself to the demands of formal court etiquette. She was said to have been treated with a certain snobbery by the court and especially the queen, Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp, though the old dowager queen Sophia Magdalena of Denmark was kind to her. The climate was also a shock. It must be added, however, that according to descriptions, she seems to have behaved in a very "spoiled" manner and made no attempt to be liked, as she had never wished to be a queen and did not want to move so far away from her family. She left Sweden in 1811 under the name of "Countess of Gotland", officially because of her health, and returned to Paris. There she stayed for twelve years, leaving not only her husband but also her son behind. She herself said that the Swedish nobility had treated her as if they were made of ice: "Do not talk with me of Sweden, I get a cold as soon as I hear the word."[citation needed] In 1818, her husband became king, but she remained in Paris. In Sweden, her husband took a mistress, the noblewoman Mariana Koskull.

In 1823, Desiree returned to Sweden together with her son's bride, Josephine of Leuchtenberg, and in 1829, she was crowned queen at her own request. The 1830s were a period when she did her best to be active as a queen, a role she had never wanted to play. The decade is described as a time of balls and parties, more than had been seen at the Swedish court since the days of King Gustav III of Sweden, but Desiree soon grew tired of her royal status and wanted to return to France; her husband wouldn't allow it. She never became very popular and never learned to speak Swedish. After she was widowed, she grew more and more eccentric; she went to bed in the morning, she got up in the evening, she ate breakfast at night, and she drove around in a carriage through the streets, in the courtyard, or wandered around the corridors of the sleeping castle with a light. On the last day of her life, she entered her box at the opera just as the performance had ended." - Wikipedia

The novel Désirée by Annemarie Selinko is based on actual events in her life and was made into a movie, Désirée (1954), an American film with Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Artist/Historian George S. Stuart creates Marius' Mule for New York collector!

Roman LegionaryIn addition to creating figures for museum exhibition, artist historian George S. Stuart also produces commissioned figures for serious collectors. One of his collectors requested this figure of a Roman legionary serving in the legions under the command of Gaius Marius. Marius is recognized for totally restructuring the Roman Army and introducing new training regimens. He changed the army from a voluntary militia to a professional force, allowing men from all classes of Roman society to join and make a career of military service.

See a full length view of this amazingly detailed figure at the Gallery of Historical Figures!