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.