Monday, April 25, 2016

Wax Dolls, Montanari and Pierotti Dolls - Gotta Love The Beauty of Wax

Slide #24 -  Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

Two of the slides from the Dolls from the Index of American Design  at the National Gallery of Art that I loved were Slide #24, shown in the picture above, and Slide #25, shown in the picture below.  I was drawn to them due to the dresses and when I read their descriptions I found out they were wax dolls, which piqued my curiosity.

According to their description: Wax dolls have been made from very early times — by the ancient Romans, for example, on through the first quarter of the twentieth century. This wax doll was probably made in England, which was noted for its wax dolls in the last half of the nineteenth century. This doll dates from the 1870s, and her elaborate costume is typical of the period. The dress is of blue taffeta trimmed with white organdy lace. The doll's childlike face and hairstyle might seem better suited to a child's body, but the true child doll was not yet common. Not until the 1880s was there a change from predominantly adult dolls to dolls representing children and babies. Many collectors still prefer dolls with features of a child but dressed as an adult.

Credits: Lillian Causey (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), The Baltimore Museum of Art (object owner), Doll in Blue Dress, 1935/1942, watercolor and graphite on paperboard, Index of American Design, 1943.8.7734.

Slide #25 -  Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

According to their description: This beautiful wax doll of about 1871 is named "Belle Hervey." She has real hair embedded in her wax head. This was an expensive process, characteristic only of luxury dolls. Belle's arms and legs are also wax, while her torso is made of cloth. Her eyes are glass. The overdress with postillion is of black taffeta trimmed with pale pink silk ribbon and black lace; there are pink buttons on the basque, or bodice, and the shoes are bright red and buttoned. Her underclothes are trimmed with bands of tucked muslin and lace; there is a pink edge on the dainty lace hose.

Credits: Edith Towner (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Mrs. F.C. (Vernette Snyder) Ripley (object owner), American  Doll--"Belle Hervey", c. 1937, watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15468

The two dolls above were definitely beautiful wax dolls.  It would have been nice to have seen the actual dolls. I decided I had to know more about wax dolls in general. Here's what I found out:

Germany began making wax dolls in the 17th century, but they didn't really become popular until the beginning of the 19th century. English doll makers started putting glass and china eyes in their wax dolls heads.

It seems that between 1870 and 1900 some English companies started adding wax over composition for doll heads and limbs with stuffed cloth bodies.

As far as wax dolls are concerned supposedly there are 3 types of wax dolls: poured wax dolls ( from ancient times until the 1800's), wax-over dolls (1800's until the 1900's), and reinforced wax dolls (from 1860 until 1890).  If you would like to know more about the three types of wax dolls the Small Treasures Doll Collectors Association has an article entitled "Complete History of Wax Dolls" on their website.

Also, according to their article: Madame Augusta Montanari may be the best known wax doll-maker of all time, but not much is known about her or her wax sculpture studio. We do know that she and her poured wax works first attracted attention at London’s Crystal Palace Exposition in 1851. There she and her winning exhibit of dolls created a sensation that led to imitation, the sincerest form of flattery.

Image Courtesy of

The Victorians had an unusual mourning practice involving wax dolls.  They would create a mourning doll as a keepsake to remember young children who had passed away.  Families who could afford it would have a wax effigy made of the child which would be dressed in the child's clothing. Tufts of the child's hair would also be used to make the doll more realistic.  They would put the effigy doll on display at the wake, sometimes they would leave it at the grave site, and sometimes they would keep them as a keepsake.  This practice actually dates back to the Romans.

For more information on Victorian mourning dolls please visit the page here.

It's highly unlikely that any of these burial wax dolls survived to present times. I was intrigued by the wax dolls and wanted to find out more. Here's what I found out:

Image Courtesy of

The Montanari Poured Wax Doll, shown in the picture above, is a Montanari Poured Wax Doll from the website and was included in their Antique Montanari Poured Wax Doll article.

According to the description under the photo: English, Circa 1850-1860. This is a rare 21" antique doll marked Montanari, still retaining its original "Montanari" ink signature on the lower front torso on its original cloth body, superior modeling of poured wax shoulder head with a very expressive face, poured wax limbs, original inserted blond human hair, blue set glass eyes, stunning silk costume and hat (possibly original). From a private collection. Was for sale on Debra's Dolls and Collectible Dolls - $4,950.

There is a beautiful Doll in 18th century style clothing; wax; Germany; 1800-1825 on the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London here.

There is picture of a Queen Victoria 19th century Augusta Montanari doll at the Museum of London website here.

There is also a beautiful Wax Bride Doll on the Victorian and Albert Museum (V&A) website here.

There is also a beautiful Caucasian Wax Doll In Welch Costume from the Victorian and Albert Museum (V&A) website here.

Another famous wax doll maker was the Pierotti family who were in business from 1793 (starting with Domenico) until 1935 (ending with the grandson Charles).

Image Courtesy of

The VERY BEAUTIFUL ENGLISH POURED WAX PORTRAIT LADY IN ORIGINAL COSTUME c. 1870,  shown in the picture above, is a Pierotti wax doll from the website.  How beautiful is she?

According to their description: 21" Poured wax shoulder head with inclined side-cast pose,oval-shaped face,light blue glass eyes,modeled eyelids with fringed lashes and brows,accented eye corners and nostrils,inserted blonde hair,closed mouth with center accent line,hand-sewn original cloth body,poured wax lower limbs,bare feet. Condition: generally excellent. Comments: attributed to Pierotti,circa 1870,likely designed as a portrait model which was a specialty of the firm,but subject is unknown. The doll was shown in the article "The Wax Dolls of Queen Victoria's Reign" by Estelle Johnston,Doll News,Summer 1979. Value Points: very beautiful doll with exquisitely- shaded complexion and lips,wearing original gold silk gown with lace trim,undergarments,matching cap,jewelry,brown kid slippers. Realized Price: $2,800.

Image Courtesy of

The FINE ENGLISH POURED WAX CHILD,PROBABLY FROM ROYAL BABY SERIES OF THE MID-1800'S, shown in the picture above, is a Pierotti wax doll also from the website.

According to their description: 26" Poured wax shoulder head depicting a round-faced child,blue inset eyes with heavily-modeled eyelids,delicate inserted lashes,closed mouth with defined space between the lips,defined ears,delicate blonde hair inserted into scalp,glazed muslin torso and upper limbs,stitch-jointed upper legs,grommet-edged sew holes with original cord attachments. Condition: generally excellent,some hair sparseness,quarter-size reglue at back sew hole. Comments: English, probably Pierotti,and believed to be from the series of Royal Babies offered by Pierotti beginning in 1849,to celebrate the young children of the beloved Queen Victoria. Value Points: outstanding quality of sculpting depicting a gentle-faced child,fine original finish and painting,original body,exquisite original bonnet and matching bodice. Realized Price: $2,500

How beautiful is her face?

Image Courtesy of Carmel Doll Shop

The amazing 18th Century Continental Wax doll, shown in the picture above, is from the Carmel Doll Shop website.

According to their description: 18th century Continental Wax (attr. Augsburg) featuring a poured wax head with much character, on a hemp-covered wire armature that is fitted with carved wood arms and feet. Beautifully costumed in period silks, this older lady of nobility is suitable for use in an early dollhouse, or vignette. Measures: 9 1/2" tall

I just love her face and outfit. She's really quite amazing. Don't you think?

Image Courtesy of Carmel Doll Shop

There was an exquisite German Wax-Over Papier-mâché from the Carmel Doll Shop that I loved. She is shown in the picture above.  Isn't she exquisite?

According to their description: 25-1/2" German wax-over Papier-mâché with wonderful bright blue sleep-eyes, lovely painting, pierced ears, and her original wig. On her original body with wax-over limbs including fabulous molded high-button boots, she wears a classic drop waist dress of navy silk faille with details that include a cream faille sash, tatted lace, and red silk bows. Her matching chapeau is the perfect finishing touch on this charming early child.

While, generally, wax dolls are no longer made you have to admit that when they were made they were quite beautiful. Gotta love the beauty of wax.

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