Could they be sisters? I bet they most certainly could! Here are two of my special early girls. One came with her full original wardrobe, and one came in her birthday suit~ I love them both dearly! I have always admired the early wooden dolls~ especially Queen Anne dolls, but these are a little later in period, and date c18teens to 1820. They are nearly identical in size, but each with special distinctive and very interesting features I will share in details later~ for now, just a little background history, in case you ever wondered what a 'Grodnertal' doll was.
Pictured above, the Dolomites~ part of the Alps in Northern Italy and SO breathtaking! This is the birthplace of my dollys, and so many others. The Grodner Thal, or Grodner Valley, is home to several wonderful little villages, but the center of doll making was St. Ulrich (Ortesei as known by locals). A very pioneering woman, Amelia B Edwards, came upon St. Ulrich while hiking int he Dolomite Range in the early 1870's and told all about her experience in a book she wrote in 1873, 'Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys'. She toured the warehouses while there and reported
" The two largest warehouses in the village are Herr Purger and of Messrs. Insam and Prinoth. They show their establishments with readiness and civility; and I do not know when I have seen any sight so odd and so entertaining. At Insam and Prinoth's alone, we were taken through more than thirty large store-rooms, and twelve of these were full of dolls-- millions of them, large and small, painted and unpainted, in bins, in cases, on shelves, in parcels for exportation"
Can you just imagine what a sight! This was however a view of the toy making there in the mid to late 19th century, after Queen Victoria had helped to make the little precious wooden dolls famous. As with anything that eventually gets mass produced, the quality is directly related to the quantity of manufacture. At the time my dollys were carved, time was spent in getting all their little details perfect~ hands had individually carved fingers, whereas later, in the 1830's, spoon hands with shallow slits for fingers were the norm, then later, just smooth spoon hands with no fingers, until at the turn of the 20th C these poor little dollys had but nubs and blunt ends to their arms, with no differentiated hands at all.
Early dolls were carved with much care, and painted with even more~ very artistically done, and many of the early ones are referred to as 'Portrait type' as their features are so distinct, they must have been done from life, and there are recorded in history Royalty that commissioned dolls to be carved after certain likenesses. Made entirely from wood, the mortise and tenon joints of the early dolls are amazing, and allow for a full range of movement~ dolls were even joined at the waist allowing them to swivel(mine are not). Shoulders, elbows, hips and knees all have nearly 360 degrees of movement! By the time Amelia toured the warehouses in the mid 19th c, the dollys were more quickly and crudely carved to meet the high demand, and had simple joints held with pegs ~ no longer on ball joints, the arms and legs could just move up and down, and the little ones had no joint at the elbow or knees. These came to be affectionately called 'Peg Wooden' dolls. They were also know as 'Penny Wooden' dollys, as they were sold by street vendors, or peddlers, for a penny. Locals would spend all winter carving dolls, and they would be 'distributed' throughout the world by traveling vendors. With the popularity of the high hairstyles of the 1820s & 30s, they were also referred to as "Tuck Comb" dolls, for the comb carved at the top of the head. My dollye on the right above, once had such comb, now long lost to time...or was it? More on that later