Meet the Girls and Boys, a turn-of-the-century antique bisque and porcelain china doll collection. The Crossroads Museum, located in the historic depot at Corinth, Mississippi, exhibited the more than 50 dolls earlier this year.
Contributed by local physician, Dr. Robert Lee in 2001, the donation of European dolls was love at first sight for this photographer. Dr. Lee’s mother purchased the dolls from Lena Littleton in 1976, Murray, Kentucky. From that point on the collection lived in cabinets built specifically for them until the museum donation.
Much of the clothing is original, but as deterioration resulted over the years, Lena sewed outfits from old fabric and personally designed period clothing for her Girls and Boys. Boy dolls the rarest, and most girl dolls created with dark hair and blue eyes.
A bisque or porcelain doll is crafted partially or wholly out of bisque porcelain. They are characterized by their realistic, skin-like matte finish and had their peak of popularity from 1860-1900 with French and German dolls. Most bisque dolls have a head made of bisque porcelain and a body made of cloth or leather, or a jointed body made of wood, papier-mâché or composition, a mix of pulp, sawdust, glue and similar materials. When producing a bisque doll, ceramic raw materials are molded and fired at more than 1260 °C (2300 °F). The head painted more than once to create skin tones and facial characteristics, and then fired again after each layer.
Doll bodies are rarely made entirely of bisque because of its fragility and weight. Bisque dolls usually have expressive, glassy, realistic eyes. Their eyebrows feathered, upper and lower eyelashes individually painted, cheeks rosy, and lips usually opened, finely painted. A completely made bisque doll will be half inch in size, while all others can be up to five feet.
The reason for my doll photography infatuation—unsure. However, my self-imposed commitment to photograph each one taken seriously one February afternoon. Keeping just ahead of the museum director’s obligation to properly store the collection take down: three arduous, whirlwind, shutter clicking hours ensued.
Lighting—poor. Backdrop—wall surface. Camera—Canon SX20. Photographer—possessed and obsessed. Museum director—smiled, conversed, lovingly wrapped, packed, and boxed the collection.
Photo shoot—a lesson in making do and improvising under less-than-desirable conditions—utilizing the elements at hand and various camera settings. My time with the Girls and Boys treated as any other portrait session, mindset and focus on capturing the best image.
- To capture model’s personality by using various angles, long shots, close-ups.
- To highlight subject’s accessories—jewelry, hair pieces and styles, articles of clothing, facial features and expressions
- To digitally preserve a century-old doll collection
- To understand purpose of the collection’s artistic value
Each doll now lovingly boxed and stored for its next grand viewing.
Would I pursue this project again? Yes, I do believe I would.
Museum Contact information: http://crossroadsmuseum.com/
Images from the entire doll collection can be seen at http://www.corinthrose.com under This N’ That
Oh! you beautiful doll,
You great big beautiful doll!(Seymour Brown and Nat D. Ayer love song)