Doll face

Image of face of Dutch wooden peg doll

I don’t feel the need to add to the shower of congratulations raining down on the Viktor & Rolf exhibition at the Barbican in London. Other than to say the mannequins made me very happy.

And they got me thinking. I’ve always liked dolls faces. Whether a peg doll, a wax mannequin from the 1920s, plastic doll faces from haberdashery shops, a nested Russian doll or a Sasha doll – the educationally acceptable face of dolls, dressed in what could have been early Margaret Howell. I used to have a beloved set of Sashas.

The face pictured here is from a jointed wooden peg doll. These dolls were cheap and plentiful in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sold by street peddlers and often called Dutch dolls due to their more illustrious predecessors, the fashion dolls of the 17th and 18th centuries. These dolls became stars of their own (now politically questionable) book by Florence Upton: “Adventures Of Two Dutch Dolls ” in 1895. Versions of the dolls in the book are still being made and photographer Tim Walker used the books as inspiration for a Vogue shoot recently.

But my doll came from Pollock’s Toy Theatre in the 1960s. Apparently part of a large case of the dolls the Pollocks’ had discovered in a case in a barn in the Dolomites. The dolls were still packed in brown paper parcels for dispatch to pre-war toy shops and the Pollocks’ had bought them all to bring back to their shop / museum.

The Vicktor & Rolf mannequins have dolls faces. The intertwined history of dolls faces and mannequins’ faces, of fashion and image and the parallel story of cosmetics and how we paint ourselves, means that that made perfect sense to me.

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