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Monday, January 10, 2011

More French Court Dolls

A man dressed as a woman?
I have been reading M. Francois Theimer's book "Les Poupees Royales de la Cour de Louis XVI" et autres amusements de la Noblesse des XVIIème et XVIIIème siècles. Which translates as The French Royal Court Dolls of the Louis XVI period and other 17th and 18th century amusements of the nobility
It was not inexpensive but given the paucity of information on these particular dolls it seemed the only way to find out more. And I wanted to know more.   They fascinate me, these mute little witnesses of this period that absorbs me so much.
The book has wonderful photos and an English translation and the author has obviously done a massive amount of research on the topic including visiting the many and varied owners of the dolls from Europe to the US. I've enjoyed it greatly and am still absorbing all the information.
The dolls themselves date from the 18th century and all look different enough to be actual representations of real people.  
The dolls seem to fit into four family groups - all centre around Marie-Antoinette. And their creator/owner would seem to have had a lot of information about the subjects including physical anomalies. 
They are anatomically correct (common even in children's dolls in that period) - and include hermaphrodites and one that M. Theimer states is a man dressed as a woman - perhaps being the Chevalier d'Eon. (A subject in himself.)
And just what their purpose was no one seems to know. The article I referred to previously in Doll Reader magazine was useful in pointing me to M Theimer's book and had some interesting photos but apart from that I wasn't impressed with the author's opinions. So what was their purpose?
Having collected dolls myself and done all sorts of wacky things with them, I probably have a wider understanding of the activities of collectors of little articulated figures than non-doll people. (My dioramas have included a Barbie Tupperware Party diorama, a Santa Baby scene complete with lingerie clad doll under a Christmas Tree waiting for Santa and an Office Christmas Party. Yeah ok doll people are different.)
In the meantime there they are, waiting patiently for someone to tell their story.

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