Saturday - 20 December 2014

Fashion dolls flaunt the 1867 look

08 August 2014Written by Anne Crane

There may have been no internet or TV in the third quarter of the 19th century, but it was possible to find out what the fashionistas of 1867 were wearing at the time.

Ladies' magazines apart, you could also obtain a 3-D snapshot of an entire season's wardrobe in miniature form via fashion dolls of the period.

This particularly well-attired 18in (46cm) high French lady which was consigned for sale last month at an auction in the US, pictured here, comes with a trunk containing a wealth of different couturier outfits, including no fewer than 14 gowns, ten bonnets, a wealth of petticoats and other undergarments, shoes and even a jug and basin, all in a remarkably crisp state of preservation.

Her trunk also bears a shipping label from Nantes to La Bourboule in the Auvergne region of France. This was the destination for the bisque-headed wooden-bodied doll and her trousseau which had been in a château in La Barboule until it appeared at  Theriault's specialist auction in San Antonio, Texas on July 15.

The clue as to why these beautifully preserved high fashion outfits are datable to the 1860s lies in one of the doll's accessories: a tiny Album de la Poupée featuring 12 early miniature photographs of other dolls in equally elegant costumes.

A similar album with a variation of these photographs is known to have been issued by the Parisian doll shop Au Paradis des Enfants in 1867 and is the earliest-known example of commercial photos of dolls.

The presence of an original wardrobe of clothes has always added value to a fashion doll. In this instance the French château provenance and the lavish, well preserved and extensive state of the trousseau, as well as the condition of the doll itself, all helped contribute to a final price of $36,000 (£22,500) just over the upper estimate.

The buyer's premium 14%.

 

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