Porcelain (and other) antique dolls for Christmas
It has become a tradition now that each December the Prague City Museum holds a Christmas-themed exhibit, most often displaying historic nativity scenes once manufactured in the Czech lands. But, these days such exhibits are a "dime a dozen", so this year the museum opted for something a little different. Organisers approached three collectors to help put together a show on antique dolls. The result is "Dolls of Our Grandmothers", displaying more than 600 dolls from 19th and early 20th centuries. If you're a fan or a collector, this is a show not to be missed.
"We traditionally hold special shows for Christmas to get people to come with their families, both grandparents and kids. In the past we tended to focus on Betlemy - that is, Bethlehem nativity scenes, or on puppets and marionettes, but this year we thought why not try something new: to exhibit historic dolls. I'm sure to this day most little girls want to get a doll for Christmas and that it's still one of the most requested gifts.
"Then, we approached three collectors because our own collection is not nearly sufficient: Alena Dolezalova, Hana Hodkova and Iva Jihlavcova, who helped put the show together."
Collector Alena Dolezalova, who has been collecting dolls as well as teddy bears for forty years, explained that her hobby - which includes all restoration work - is time-consuming indeed:
The oldest doll in the show dates back to 1805: a so-called "biscuit" doll - a doll with an unglazed head and body made from leather or cloth. Alena Dolezalova explains that visitors should take note of the different doll makers, like the French Juveau and Armand Marseille, and the German Kestner, Handwerkck, Kammer und Reinhardt as well as Simon & Halbig, all well-known historic labels.
Of all the dolls on display do any of the collectors have their favourites? Hana Hodkova answered that question easily:
Hana Hodkova worked for years in theatre and TV in costume and prop design, and managed to combine her work with her passion: visiting various flea markets to search for replacement parts. As part of her full-time hobby, she's says that she has now collected and restored dolls for the past ten years. She says her hobby takes not only considerable patience but also talent.
"I have an eight-year old granddaughter who first didn't understand when someone gave me a baby carriage - she figured by rights it should belong to her and not her grandma! But, she knows 'why' now. So no, I don't lend the dolls, or if I do, not outside of their baby carriage!"
Viewing antiques like some of the beauties on display in "Dolls of Our Grandmothers" is interesting if only because so very little, in a way, has changed. In the 19th century paper and cloth dolls were the stuff dreams where made of for many children. There is something of that captured in the exhibit which lasts until February 2007.
Photo: Elena Horalkova