Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Perfect Eighteenth Century Doll

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Susan reporting:

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), complete with the replica 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.


Theresa Bruno said...

Gorgeous doll! I collect dolls and she is just beautiful and in such good condition. If I were an employee of the Ilkley Toy Museum in Yorkshire, I would get her out every night to comb her hair.

Ok, now everyone thinks I'm weird. But admit it, I'm not the only one!

Anonymous said...

What a beauty! She reminds me of the Lord and Lady Clapham dolls at the Victoria & Albert Museum. They have accessories and their own chairs, too.


Seaside Studio vintage jewelry said...

Love, love, LOVE Miss Barwick with her own sedan chair!!! What a treasure!

Heather Carroll said...

I was once a proud owner of a white Barbie Mustang but that sedan chair accessory totally knocks that out of the water.

Chris Woodyard said...

Perhaps we need to petition Mattel to create "Georgian Beauty Barbie." (Sedan, Ken as Chairman/Chair Porter, and Ricky as Link Boy sold separately.)

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I'm glad you all like her - knew you would! - and I suspect Barbies everywhere today are resting uneasily in their Dream Houses. *g*

Anonymous, I agree, though the Claphams are a bit earlier, they're very much in the same spirit.

Chris, love the idea of Georgian Barbie with an all-Mattel retinue of Ken, Ricky, and, of course, Poindexter.

MrsT said...

she is beautiful! I'm sure the little girl who owned her treasured her!

LorettaChase said...

Oh, she really is beautiful. And the sedan chair is too much!

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MaryAnn Bassis said...

What a beautiful doll! I realize she is one-of-a-kind, but any idea of how much such a doll would cost now?

Chris Woodyard said...

There are at least several doll-makers creating hand-made wooden dolls in the Georgian style. Colonial Williamsburg sells some for $400-$700 (at last glance) in their gift shop at the Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Google "wooden Queen Anne dolls" and see what pops up. I found one, 18 inches tall, with glass eyes and mohair wig in antique fabric gown for slightly over US$1100. Sedan not included.

Jenny Girl said...

Beautiful indeed! She puts Barbie to shame. Thanks Gals :)

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