With Christmas fast approaching and girls fine-tuning their wish lists for Santa, I thought I'd bring you a doll that must have brightened the eyes of her long-ago little mistress.
Known as "Miss Barwick" in honor of the West Yorkshire family that owned her for several generations, this elegant lady (left and below right) was carved from wood around 1760. She stands 24 inches tall on jointed legs in blue silk stockings and tiny leather shoes. Her gesso-covered head is artfully painted, her black enamel eyes sparkle, and her fair curls (a bit tangled, but what lady's would be after 250 years?) are genuine human hair.
She's still quite the fashion plate, too. She wears her original gown of blue silk brocade with a quilted, boned linen bodice, and a long hooded cloak of gold silk, all in the latest Georgian fashion.
But what truly marks Miss Barwick as A Lady is that she has her own sedan chair. Though the carrying rails are missing, the rest of the chair's appointments are there: brocade cushions for comfort and curtains for privacy, and studded trim for extra style points. And to let everyone in the street know that this chair belongs to her, the door is embossed with an ornate initial "B." Just as today's fashion doll has her pink Jaguar convertible, 18th c. counterpart had her sedan chair, and we're sure the fabulous Miss Barwick steeped from her chair to attend countless imaginary balls and frolics that would make even Barbie jealous.
These days, Miss Barwick has retired from society, and resides at the Ilkley Toy Museum in West Yorkshire. But there are other 18th c.-style dolls at play for the holidays. In the Margaret Hunter Shop of Colonial Williamsburg, the miniature millinery shop is once again on display for the Yuletide season (left), completewiththereplica Georgian fashion dolls(or "babies") minding the store. The tiny milliner is trying to tempt her customer with everything from hoops to a calash bonnet, and has even served tea to help coax the sale. If you've visited the shop, you'll recognize how closely the miniature inventory follows the full-size one – and also how much fun playing with dolls can be, whatever the age or era.
Many thanks to Chris Woodyard for introducing us to Miss Barwick!
Top left: Miss Barwick and her sedan chair, photograph by Christie's Auction House. Right: Miss Barwick, photograph by Ilkley Toy Museum. Lower left: The Doll's Millinery Shop, photograph by the Margaret Hunter Shop, Colonial Williamsburg.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.