Wax dolls – the inspiration?
Albert and Victoria both chose to involve themselves closely with their family. Albert introduced the Christmas tree as an important feature of Christmas, a German tradition originally. In the gardens of Osbourne house, their private family retreat in the Isle of Wight, Albert designed and had built a play house for the children, where there was a cooking range for his daughters to cook real food. The boys had little garden plots in which to grow vegetables, and there are still wheelbarrows and miniature garden tools on display in the gardens of Osbourne house. Victoria and Albert valued childhood as a time to play and not to sit at lessons all day, as Victoria’s strict and lonely childhood was not to be repeated with her own children. Victoria was an artist and loved to paint and draw and her tutors in these subjects were famous artists of their day. Consequently, she had an ‘artist’s eye’ and admired the beauty of her babies and young children. She commissioned sculptures in marble of her children. She had their baby limbs and their hands and feet beautifully modelled and cast in marble. (Some examples of these can be seen in Osbourne house.)
There were many portraits of her children, painted by important artists. This inspired dollmakers of the day to make realistic portrait dolls in wax with beautifully sculpted hands and feet. This is an example of a Montanari doll representing a well-fed and beautiful child. These were epic dolls with a real sculptural image.
Pierotti produced a doll baby, in the likeness of Victoria’s children each year as they were born over a nine year span. These elaborately dressed infant dolls, presented in their Christening gowns, as still to be found as many were made and have survived.
Pieriotti, Montenari and Lucy Peck took inspiration from the royal children and of course the latter two dollmakers, made superb portrait dolls of Victoria, one to be seen in the Museum of London. Wax doll production was very successful for these doll artists, as the newly emerging middle classes were following the example of the royal family and were having nurseries for their children and wax dolls were both a popular and fashionable toy for their daughters. Therefore wonderful wax dolls were created in Victoria and Albert’s reign.
Written by Heather Bond 1/2/2013 (Ref: The oil paintings are displayed in Kensington Palace, photos taken by phone with permission. 28/1/2013)