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I like to imagine the voyage of a single porcelain doll I owned as a kid

Her head was made in’s factory in Thuringia, Germany. https://rainbowhighdolls.net/ Her face, maybe 1 of 1,000 made that day, was produced using the same numbered mold as all of her sisters’. Then her head was strung together with a composition body before the doll got her finishing touches a cotton slip, a velvet dress, a ruffled hat, a wig of human hair.

This particular doll was then bundled and exported

In my mind, I see her on a steamship headed off to Latin America. After a close call sailing around jagged Cape Horn, her crate sliding back and forth in the hull, she arrived in Santiago, Chile, where she was sold in a toy shop to an affluent family. Then, more than 100 years later, while I visited my extended family there, I spotted her in a flea market laid out on a blanket. I bought her with my allowance, drawn to something unnamable. Without realizing it, I’d fallen for the same flawed thinking the Victorians had, idolizing these dolls for all the wrong reasons.

In the 17th and early 18th centuries, children were seen as inherently sinful

It was a spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child time, when parents had a moral calling to keep their kids from succumbing to their darker, devilish impulses. Produce an adult who would perform their station in life. Play was only useful if it built good habits.

This stance began to soften in the 1800s

as Romantic poets like William Wordsworth linked childhood with a state of. Pre-Raphaelite artists like John Everett Millais painted children not as stiff miniature adults but as young individuals with a, all apple cheeks and corkscrew curls.

In this sea change, childhood morphed into a heavily romanticized

Dreamy time of purity and innocence a fragile moment that required protection. Yet it was clear that only upper- and middle-class youth would be sheltered, with working-class children forced to labor in mines, textile mills and other. Victorian toys, mostly created for wealthy children, embodied this schism. And lavish porcelain bisque dolls, often depicting high society with garments of velvet and lace, could be considered the grandest spectacle of that hypocrisy.  Dolls expressly “fostered conspicuous consumption, ritual and display,” writes Miriam Forman-

The dolls themselves were a miniature model of the cycle of fashion consumerism

New outfits, new hairdos, new accessories and new furnishings for these bisque beauties. It was all a dress rehearsal for the consumer cycle of womanhood.

These dolls had forerunner

The French royal court would ship these figurines fully decked out in the latest styles so aristocracy in other countries could copy them for their closets. Essentially, they were the 1700s version of flipping through Vogue.

In that respect, porcelain dolls were nothing new

The toy-as-status-symbol connection has long been established. In the Middle Ages, were easily made and widely available whereas ornate knight dolls with jousting accessories were rare, exquisite items reserved for the children of royalty. This division goes all the way back to antiquity. Consider, a Roman woman whose sarcophagus was found to contain a beautifully crafted jointed doll. Death is the great equalizer: All skeletons look the same. But this doll acted as a stand-in for her owner’s body. When physical presence could no longer communicate her status, her doll’s sculpted face, molded hair and fine details were able to deliver the message.

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