Saturday, January 24, 2009

Louis XIV Ken repaint showcases talent of Viktoriya Hawthorne

When the movie "300" came out last year, I posted an article about a OOAK doll dressed as Leonidas as depicted in the film that came up for sale on Ebay. This week I noticed a very detailed Ken doll repaint dressed as King Louis XIV that appeared in the current batch of auctions. When I checked out the site of the vendor I discovered that this doll is another OOAK produced by the same artist as the Leonidas doll I featured last year. A further exploration of her website,, revealed that the artist, Viktoriya Hawthorne, has actually produced a number of very detailed Ken and Barbie repaints - many costumed as historical personalities.

Viktoriya uses various versions of Ken or Barbie as palettes for her artistic expression. She totally removes all original factory paint then repaints the figures with artist acrylics and sealers. If a complex historical hairstyle cannot be achieved with the existing coiffure, she also reroots the hair, trims, perms, and applies finishing touches that may include hand-applied beads or braided fibers.

Originally a science teacher employed by various schools and colleges in Camarillo, California, Viktoriya now enjoys creating OOAK dolls full time.

As I browsed her gallery I was particularly struck by the detail and design elements exhibited by her Egyptian-themed dolls. They spanned thousands of years of pharaonic history from the first recognized pharaoh, Menes to the the most famous warrior pharaoh, Thutmose III, to the ill-fated Macedonian temptress, Cleopatra with various other monarchs like Khufu, the pyrmaid builder, Tut, the boy king, and Nefertiti, wife of one of the world's first monotheists, Akhenaten, sprinkled in between.

Of course I was thrilled to see her interpretation of my favorite conqueror, Alexander the Great, decked out in finery as depicted in Oliver Stone's film, Alexander. I have an Alexander the Great 12" "action" figure released by Dragon in Dreams a few years ago but his costume is not nearly as elaborate as the one created by Viktoriya. Whoever ended up with this imaginative portrait is a very fortunate collector!

Viktoriya and I seem to have the same taste in films and the actors who have portrayed historical heroes including Gerard Butler. I see she has designed an Attila costumed in royal Hunnic wedding attire similar to the garment worn by Gerard Butler in the miniseries Attila. This miniseries, although not warmly received by the critics is still one of my all time favorites along with "Helen of Troy", "Rome", and "The Tudors". It was my first encounter with Gerard Butler and he quickly rose to the top of my epic film heroes list! Although he gained star status with his portrayal of the Phantom of the Opera, I have not yet seen that performance. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed his work in "Timeline", "Beowulf and Grendel", and "300".

She also has Gerard Butler-inspired versions of Andre Marek from the film "Timeline", Beowulf, and the Phantom of the Opera. Again, I have a 12" figure of Gerard Butler as Andre Marek from "Timeline" that I was able to obtain from Dragon in Dreams a couple of years ago, but her version of Marek is also very detailed.

If you are not familiar with Gerard Butler, watch the following well done YouTube video tribute to his performance in "Timeline"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1850s Doll of Napoleon comes up for bid on Ebay

I see the Galleria Verges is offering a porcelain and wood doll of Napoleon Bonaparte from the 1850s for sale on Ebay. The doll has very delicate features and what appears to be real leather boots.

The listing description:

"Napoleon is dressed in wool clothes, possibly leather boots, and carries medals of honor. The doll measures about 14" X 4 1/4" X 2" ( 35.5 cm X 10.8 cm X 5 cm ). Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica on August 15th, 1769 and died in the Island of Saint Helena on May 5th, 1821. Napoleon was one of the most influential and powerful military and political leaders in European History. Napoleon served as a General in the latter years of the French Revolution. Then, he ruled as a First Consul, and afterwards he crowned himself as the Emperor of France. Napoleon fought some of the most powerful European countries in the first ten years of the 19th Century and dominated continental Europe through several important victories such as Austerlitz. Napoleon was defeated at Leipzig and finally in Waterloo. He was exiled to the Island of Elba. Napoleon lived under British supervision the last 6 years of his life. He died in the Island of Saint Helena of stomach cancer, but some scientists claim he was poisoned with arsenic."

It has an opening bid of $700 - a little bit out of my league, unfortunately. The auction ends Jan. 26, 2009. Perhaps another art museum will be the successful bidder on this unique piece.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Asa Ames Wood Portraits featured in Williamsburg Exhibits

I see that the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is hosting an exhibit of the 19th century portrait sculptures of artist Asa Ames. This picture of a delicate little girl named Amanda from the collection of Barbara Rice caught my eye immediately.

I had never heard of Mr. Ames before so I researched his work and learned that he was talented young man born in 1824 who was thought to have apprenticed with a carver of ship figureheads or trade figures. Sadly he died of consumption at only 27 years old. But he left behind a small group of his sculptures, thought to number only 12 to 13, that provide an intimate window into the lives of, mostly young, 19th century Americans.

Another of my favorites is this sculpture of a young man that is part of the permanent collection of the Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, West Virginia. Although it is unsigned and undated, the work is thought to be the work of Ames because of stylistic similarities with other signed work. It is thought to have been produced in 1847. The Huntington Museum lends a little more insight into Ames short life:

"Asa Ames’s (1823-1851) story is a fascinating, and ultimately tragic, one of an early folk artist. He was born in New York State, probably near Buffalo. Though his early career cannot be traced with certainty, by 1847 Ames was residing in Albany with a family, for whom he carved busts of three children. This was to be the pattern for the rest of his short life. Apparently suffering from tuberculosis, he spent extended periods of time living with various family members and friends, carving busts and full-length sculptures of the younger members of the household, perhaps in exchange for medical care. His work, of gessoed and painted wood, was characterized by a direct frontality with great attention to detail and dress. Sadly, he was finally overcome by his illness, and he died at age 27.

The Huntington Museum’s Bust of a Young Man (ca. 1847), though unsigned and undated, can be attributed to Ames on stylistic and other grounds. An interesting feature is a circular hole into which some type of ornament was originally placed. It may have been a medallion recording an academic, athletic, or other achievement. Whatever it was, the prominence of its placement indicates great importance to its owner."

The American Folk Art Museum in New York exhibited his work and produced an wonderful slide show of some of his pieces.