Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Art of Play: A Novelty Egg Doll in a Box, 1870

Novelty "Egg Doll", 1870
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Dolls were often given as gifts to adults to celebrate occasions such as births, christenings and weddings. Very often these dolls were presented in “boxes” which were really elaborate cases of wood, papier mache and glass with elaborately painted backgrounds.

This English doll was most likely given as a gift for a christening or a birth. The figure of a baby is bursting forth from an egg. The doll can easily be removed from its case. Upon inspection, one notices that the doll’s head can be removed to reveal a cavity inside which was specifically created to hold sweets. The usual filling for such dolls was candied almonds—a traditional gift to commemorate joyous events.

The interior of the case is adorned with wax roses which frame a hand-painted mirror so that the doll could be viewed from all sides. Special items such as these were cherished for many years, however, given their fragile nature, few survive. This particular example can be viewed at the Museum of Childhood at the V&A.

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