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Dolls through History

As far back as we can go in time, dolls have been a part of human imagination. Sometimes votive figures, sometimes toys or collectibles, they survived fashion trends through the ages, pleasing all those who cherished and still cherish them.

The First Dolls

In fact, dolls were born long before they were given the french name of «poupée» (doll), which probably comes from the latin words «puppa» or «pupa» that mean «tétines, sein» (nipples, breast). Although it is difficult to define the doll’s origin, a few ancient objects coming of Antiquity tell us that dolls were part of Greeks and Romans lives at this era.

Most of the time, these small rudimentary shaped wooden or clay figures were religious objects. Some were even laid down with mummies in burial place. In Greece, for instance, jointed dolls were found in temples dedicated to goddesses Demeter and Persephone . Such dolls were also found in Egyptian’s temples.

Childhood Playground

A stick, a clump of straw, a branch shaped with a knife, a stuffed ball of fabric or a roughly hand painted ball of paper... All a little girl needs is a bit of imagination to find the companion she dreams of.

From primitive to more elaborate forms, depending on the society from which they came, dolls have left behind them traces of a quiet happiness typical of childhood play. Thus, we invariably find them associated to the everyday life of little girls or collected by rich heirs, princes and other nobility.

For the little girl, the everyday actions of dressing, feeding or do the hair of her doll is the perfect occasion to prepare for her role as a mother. During Renaissance, girls of royal blood learned with their dolls the strict codes of court etiquette.

Portraits dof an Era

Prints and paintings from many eras have contributed to promote the world of dolls. They were ever more present
in portraits of bourgeoisie and aristocracy.

Renaissance will bring renewal and sophistication in the methods used to make dolls. The most talented artisans were recruited by nobility. Dolls then came with elaborate wardrobes and were in a sense, fashion ambassador from one court to another. It was not rare, for little princes and princesses, to exchange their dolls.

Whether they were industrially made or handcrafted, luxury objects or simple children toys, dolls have evolved to embody many esthetic ideals. Natural and fragile materials, such as clay, ceramic, bones, cloth or straw have gradually paved the way to porcelain, plastics, paper and polymer pastes. These synthetic materials are very popular with contemporary artists.

One thing is for sure, each period of history reveals a lot of things on who played with the dolls, who made them, who collected them.


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