Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Art of Play: An English Pandora, 1755-1760

England, 1755-1760
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made between 1755 and 1760, this Pandora (a fashion doll) was created to convey the latest fashion among the courts of Europe. Pandoras were in use from the Fourteenth Century, but the practice reached its apex the Eighteenth Century as these three-dimensional fashion plates were sent all over Europe and America to promote the wares of dressmakers. By the end of the Eighteenth Century, Pandoras gave way in importance to fashion magazines.
Technically, these were not designed as toys, but, after they had served their original purpose, they often found their way into the eager hands of children.

This wooden Pandora is dressed in a silk sack-back robe, luxuriously sparking with glass beads, with a matching petticoat and stomacher. The figure wears all of the accessories and underpinnings expected of a fashionable lady of the late 1750s. Since the clothes are secured with the original pins, we can see that the garments have remained in position since the 18th century. Clearly, this figure was never played with.

The doll is marked "Eliz. Bootle, London.” This Pandora is associated with the Loveday family. According to the V&A, the Bootle name entered the Loveday family, “on the marriage of Robert Wilbraham to Mary Bootle in 1755. Robert took Mary's name under the terms of her uncle's will, therefore the Wilbraham-Bootle family of Rode Hall, Cheshire became the Bootle-Wilbraham family (connected to 1st Baron Skelmersdale).”

Prior to being acquired by the V&A in 1980, the figure was displayed for a number of years in the Fashion Gallery as a long loan from the family.

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