Monday, March 3, 2014

The Art of Play: The Duke of Connaught Doll, 1850-51

Prince Arthur
Made by the Montanari Family
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we have a baby doll with shoulders, head, lower arms and hands of poured wax, a body of stuffed, white-glazed cotton with wax, and composition legs. The doll is embellished with blue glass eyes, and inserted blond human hair.

Though sometimes infants’ fashions of the Nineteenth Century make determining the child’s gender rather difficult, in this case, we know that the doll is meant to be a boy. He is dressed in a chemise, barracoat (a robe-like, outer gown), petticoat, long gown (beneath the barracoat), lace sacque jacket, lace bonnet, knitted wool bonnet and knitted wool socks. I am astounded that babies were dressed in that many layers without being strangled, but judging by the amount of people on the earth, clearly some babies from the Nineteenth Century lived to grow and reproduce.

This doll is by the The Montanari family—celebrated as among the best known of the UK producers of wax dolls in the Victorian era. (Richard) Napoleon Montanari (born circa 1813) was a wax modeller and responsible for the heads and hands. Napoleon’s wife, Madame Montanari, (nee Charlotte Augusta Dalton) was a dollmaker known for creating elaborately dressed dolls. Later, their eldest son entered the business as a wax modeller and doll maker.

The Montanaris often made dolls representing royalty. This particular example made in the year of the Great Exhibition (1851) depicts the seventh child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, later the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, who was, at that point, the most recent addition to the Royal Family.

No comments: