Friday, September 27, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Old Pretender Doll, 1680

The Old Pretender Doll, 1680
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made in 1680, this doll of gessoed and painted wood, leather, and satin trimmed with metallic lace and fringe is known as “The Old Pretender” and is one of the oldest dolls in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The doll was carved from wood which was then covered with gesso (a mixture of plaster and glue) before being elbaborately painted. The doll is fashionably dressed in the style of the time of its creation. It wears a wig made of human hair and has been adorned with “beauty spots” which have been painted on the face. Such beauty spots or “patches” were worn over blemishes and scars from pox during this period and were considered by some to be fashionable, and, by others, to be quite vulgar.

This delicate plaything is associated with the court of King James VII of Scotland who was also known as King James II of England and Wales and was kept at the palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The doll is throught to have later been given to a family of loyal supporters by James II's son James Edward (acknowledged James VII in Scotland but not James III in England and Wales who was subsequently known as “The Old Pretender”). Hence the doll’s name—an homage to the giver of this unusual gift. 

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