Lucy Peck – A wax doll artist
Lucy Peck was born in1846 and died in 1930, and is famous for her wonderful doll making and who, in her middle years, went on to make some fabulous portrait dolls of famous personalities of the time eg: Queen Victoria being one of the most important.
She had her own toy shop in Regents Street however when her lease expired interestingly she moved to High Street Kensington, which even in modern times had an important antique doll and toy shop. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a descendant of Lucy Peck, her great-grandson, Frank Michael Norman who has a small collection of his great-grandmother’s dolls. He showed me her original card informing her clients of her move which is actually signed in her own hand.
He also showed me a wonderful sampler that Lucy made as a young girl, signed Lucy Rebecca Brightman aged 8 years. He even inherited her modelling tools that she used for doll-sculpting which he considered important enough to put in the care of Bethnal Green Dolls’ museum (Museum of Childhood).
Here is also a picture of Lucy Peck’s sewing table that Mr Norman inherited which stands in his house today.
Queen Victoria Wax doll
We have ‘Queen Victoria’, a superb example of a very rare portrait doll, she is 28” tall, the doll was inspired by the painting of ‘Your Majesty’ by Mary L. Gow, showing Victoria receiving the news of her Accession to the throne at Windsor. It is hanging in the Queen’s gallery in Buckingham Palace. The doll is well documented in the book by Mary Hillier – ‘The History of Wax Dolls’. To be noted, the nightgown has been replaced at some time by a more suitable and elaborate gown, more fitting for a Queen.
On the morning of the King’s death (June 20, 1837) the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham arrived at Kensington at five o’clock and were ushered into an apartment, where she entered wrapped in a dressing gown, straight from her bed. She was informed that the King had died and she was now Queen, she put out her hand to him, to acknowledge this important moment.
This famous scene of the Queen hearing for the first time that she succeeded to the throne was the inspiration to Lucy Peck to model a fine portrait doll of Victoria at this historical occasion. Note her wonderful expression as if she is gazing into the unknown future with bravery and commitment. See how beautifully Lucy Peck has modelled her arms and hands from the painting by Mary L. Gow. These are not the normal plump doll’s arms but are graceful poised adult arms with slender expressive hands.
Debutante Portrait Doll in 1902
This dressed wax doll by Lucy Peck represents Katherine Mary Noel-Hill on presentation at Court in 1902. She is 25” tall, in mint condition as she has been very well cared for and not treated as a play doll. She is known as May. Her eyelashes are set in the upper lids, and hair inserted in slits. The doll wears an original costume as worn at a ‘coming out’ ball, complete with diamond tiara and jewels. She wears her hair in a Victorian chignon. A Peck label reading ‘191 Regent Street’ appears on the lower half of the body. The previous owner of this doll was the late Vivienne Green, a discerning collector of English dolls and early English dolls houses and was the wife of the author, Graham Green.
Note her very young plump features and her rather nervous half-smile, she also has beautiful glass paper-weight eyes. I feel that this doll was a special commission to Lucy Peck by the family for the special occasion of May’s coming-out. Commissions were taken for wax portraits of children throughout the Victorian era, Queen Victoria herself had wax portraits dolls of her children made and even wax models of her babies hands and feet, you can see them in Osborne house, the favourite family home on the Isle of Wight.
Large Wax Portrait Doll
This is a later Lucy Peck doll, because the label on her body says 131 Regent Street, which is where Lucy Peck moved to from her first shop. She has graceful full arms and beautifully articulated hands, modelled with separate fingers, which are typically Lucy Peck. She has full waxed legs to above the knee and beautiful modelled feet.
The face is a portrait of a smiling young woman, which is unusual as at this time, early photograph portraits only showed unsmiling faces due to the limited technology of photography and the long time they had to sit totally still and not move an eyelash!
She has inserted long blond real hair and inserted hair eyebrows. She stands 31” and her head tilts slightly on one side, giving her a quizzical look. She has a horse-hair stuffed body with the Lucy Peck stamp. All her underwear is totally original and she wears a contemporary dress but sorry we don’t know who this girl represents, she is a mystery………. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.
Lucy Peck’s portrait dolls are wonderful realistic sculptures of young famous women of her day. Interestingly, she went on to study sculpture and modelling at Art college in her later years and we can see from her doll-making she had great artistic talent.
Written by: Heather Bond
Victoriana Dolls, 101 Portabello Road