Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Papier-mâché and composition antique dolls

Hand made papier-mâché was used in France for dolls'heads as early as the 16th century. From c. 1810 the German Toy Factories at Sonneberg began to mass-produce moulded dolls' heads in the material using a pressure process that eliminated hand kneading. Papier-mâché dolls were popular until the 1870sand are now much-collected. Those with moulded heads were described as "milliners' models", for reasons that have not been established. 

Antique Papier Mache Doll Leather Body

In America the most important producer was Ludwig Greinerof Philadelphia, whose dolls have
papier-mâché heads lined with muslin or linen. 

Composition dolls were sometimes called "indestructable" - although the medium can in fact be delicate. They were made from various amalgams, incorporating paper or wood pulp, and makers developed their own secret recipes. Some collectors sensibly use the term "composition" to cover toughened forms of papier-mâché. 

A composition Bye-Lo Baby doll
Cast composition was used for shoulder-heads and socket heads (mainly from c. 1820) before it became the most popular body material from the 1880s. Composition dolls of the early 20th century are not especially popular with collectors. 

A composition cloth vintage doll
Both papier-mâché  and composition dolls are prone to cracking and crumbling. Where the paintwork has been protected with varnish, this tends to wear on the prominent parts of the head, such as the nose and chin. Damage can also occur to composition bodies where two halves join, and at the sockets. On sockets that have been reinforced with wood, the reinforcement often collapse, with the result that the limbs may slip into the body. Re-stringing with elastic should be carried out with care, as excess pressure will break the doll. 

Particularly vulnerable to being crushed are the inferior "carton" composition bodies of the 1920s and 30s. Moreover, the components were fixed together by staples, which have often rusted and damaged the joins.Cleaning should be carried out with a soft brush, avoiding water as the varnish is water-soluble.  


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