What is a Doll?

How long have we had this love affair with Dolls?

Pearls of Wisdom:

New World Dictionary describes a doll as - "a child's toy, puppet, marionette, etc. made to resemble a human being."

Monday, October 25, 2010

When Witches Go Riding...

"Harvest Time"

With all of the excitement of the holiday season and the new traditions that have made their way into modern culture, it can be difficult to remember the origin of these holidays and the importance of the original traditions. All too often, Halloween is associated with costumes and candy but, in its early days, the significance of Halloween held great importance throughout Scotland, Ireland and Britain. Sadly, over time, these traditions have been forgotten.

"Harvest Festival" A harvest bacchante at harvest time.

Halloween actually started out as Samhain, a ceremony celebrated among Celts and their ancestors. In the country year, Samhain marked the end of the winter solstice as well as a prosperous harvest, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and byre. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored in sturdy thatched racks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan times.

All the harvest must be gathered in -- barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples -- for come November, the witches would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows.

"Donkey Ride: William Bouguereau ca. 1878


Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking, salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come. The endless horizons of summer gave way to a warm, dim and often smoky room; the symphony of summer sounds was replaced by a counterpoint of voices, young and old, human and animal. For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring. Animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for the winter. The last gathering of crops was known as "Harvest Home, "
It celebrated with fairs and festivals.

" Dionne Quintuplets"

"Peter, Peter..Pumpkin Eater"


Other old traditions have survived to this day; lanterns carved out of pumpkins and turnips were used to provide light on a night when huge bonfires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from this new fire; this was believed to be good luck for all households. The name "Jack-O-Lantern" means "Jack of the Lantern, " and comes from an old Irish tale. Jack was a man who could enter neither heaven nor hell and was condemned to wander through the night with only a candle in a turnip for light. Or so goes the legend...

"Trick or treat" as it is practiced in the U. S. is a complex custom believed to derive from several Samhain traditions, as well as being unique to this country. Since Irish immigrants were predominantly Catholic, they were more likely to observe All Soul's Day. But Ireland's folk traditions die hard, and the old ways of Samhain were remembered. The old tradition of going door to door asking for donations of money or food for the New Year's feast, was carried over to the U. S. from the British Isles.

Jumeau Doll dressed as a "Court Jester" ca. 19th century

Hogmanay was celebrated January 1st in rural Scotland, and there are records of a "trick or treat" type of custom; curses would be invoked on those who did not give generously; while those who did give from their hearts were blessed and praised. Hence, the notion of "trick or treat" was born (although this greeting was not commonly used until the 1930's in the U. S.). The wearing of Halloween Costumes is an ancient practice; villagers would dress as ghosts, to escort the spirits of the dead to the outskirts of the town, at the end of the night's celebration.

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight make me a child again just for to-night!~Elizabeth Akers Allen

Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen. This good woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood.
One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her,
"Go, my dear, and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill. Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter."

As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, "I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother."

George Frederic Watts "Little Red Riding Hood"

"Does she live far off?" said the wolf
"Oh I say," answered Little Red Riding Hood; "it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village."
"Well," said the wolf, "and I'll go and see her too. I'll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first."

This greeting card depicts a ritual of divination found in folklore from the USA and the British Isles. The young girl hopes to catch a glimpse of her future husband by looking into a mirror on a darkened room at Hallowe'en.

"Apprentice Witch"

Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog. Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, lizard's leg, and owlet's wing. For a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble. -William Shakespeare

Snap-Apple Night, painted by Irish artist Daniel Maclise in 1833. It was inspired by a Halloween party he attended in Blarney,, Ireland, in 1832. The caption in the first exhibit catalogue: There Peggy was dancing with Dan, while Maureen the lead was melting. To prove how their fortunes ran with the cards ould Nancy dealt in; There was Kate, and her sweet-heart Will, in nuts their true-love burning. And poor Norah, though smiling still. She'd missed the snap-apple turning. On the Festival of Hallow Eve.

The wind began to switch / The house, to pitch / And suddenly the hinges started to unhitch / Just then the Witch / To satisfy an itch / Went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch!

Once upon a time...Next to a great forest there lived a poor woodcutter with his wife and his two children. The boy's name was Hansel and the girl's name was Gretel.
He had but little to eat, and once, when a great famine came to the land, he could no longer provide even their daily bread.

"Let's sit down and eat our fill," said Hansel. "I'll eat from the roof, and Gretel, you eat from the window. That will be nice and sweet for you."

Hansel had already eaten a piece from the roof and Gretel had eaten a few round windowpanes, and she had just broken out another one when she heard a gentle voice calling out from inside:
Nibble, nibble, little mouse "Who is nibbling at my house"?

Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite, all are on their rounds tonight; In the wan moon's silver ray, thrives their helter-skelter play.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary. Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door — Only this, and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, in there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door —Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door — Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore."Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven. Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore —Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen/the moon laughs and whispers, 'tis near Halloween.

Say, its only a paper moon, sailing over a cardboard sea. But it wouldn't be make-believe, if you believed in me.

Yes, it's only a canvas sky hanging over a muslin tree. But it wouldn't be make-believe, if you believed in me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Art for Art's Sake"

The Aesthetic Movement of 19th century Europe emphasized aesthetic values over moral or social themes in literature, fine art, the decorative art, and interior design. Generally speaking, it represents the same tendencies that symbolism or decadence stood for in France, or decadentismo stood for in Italy, and may be considered the British branch of the same movement. It belongs to the anti-Victorian reaction and had post-Romantic roots, and as such anticipates modernism. It took place in the late Victorian era from around 1868 to 1901, and is generally considered to have ended with the trial of Oscar Wilde (which occurred in 1895).

Pre Raphaelite Girl Light Blue dress red . Millais's art by the late eighties was influenced by Gainsborough's watercolour type technique in oil, with paint being thinly applied, a supreme example being the lovely "Little Speedwells Darling Blue" 1892 (Lady lever Art Gallery)

Little Miss Muffett (Private Collection), photographed at the centenary exhibition in Southampton . It is thought that the girls in Spring (of 1859) were also eating "curds and whey" as the nursery rhyme would have it; although beyond that, there is no pictorial connection.

Dante Gabriel Rosetti ca. 1868


The artists and writers of the Aesthetic movement tended to hold that the Arts should provide refined sensuous pleasure, rather than convey moral or sentimental messages. As a consequence, they did not accept the conception of art as something moral or useful. Instead, they believed that Art did not have any instructive purpose; it need only be beautiful. The Aesthetes developed the cult of beauty, which they considered the basic factor in art. Life should copy Art, they asserted.

Girl in White Kimono

In Europe towards the end of the nineteenth century interest in all things Japanese was growing, and strongly influenced the artists of the time. George Hendrik Breitner, who painted this scene, was also affected for a time by Japanism. In the years 1893-1894 he painted seven 'girls wearing a kimono' in various poses.

Camille Monet in Japanese Costume, Monet

"The Japanese Doll" Eschwarzer

For Oscar Wilde the contemplation of beauty for beauty's sake was not only the foundation for much of his literary career but was quoted as saying "Aestheticism is a search after the signs of the beautiful. It is the science of the beautiful though which men seek the correlation of the arts. It is, to speak more exactly, the search after the secret of life."

"Abelard and Heloise" Robert Bateman, Pre-Raphaelite painting.

Aestheticism had its forerunners in John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and among the Pre-Raphaelites


Wilde famously toured the United States in 1882. He travelled across the United States spreading the idea of Aesthetics in a speech called "The English Renaissance." In his speech he proposed that Beauty and Aesthetics was not "not languid but energetic. By beautifying the outward aspects of life, one would beautify the inner ones." The English Renaissance was, he said, "like the Italian Renaissance before it, a sort of rebirth of the spirit of man".

This view of aesthetics was entirely new to the United States and took root not only in the parlors of New York, but in the mining town of Leadville, Co.

In 'A Woman of No Importance' , Oscar Wilde wrote 'Moderation is a fatal thing, Lady Hunstanton. Nothing succeeds like excess.' This statement highlighted the conspicuous consumption of Edwardian society hostesses. These ladies were an almost different breed from ordinary women. Their like was never seen again after the First World War, not even in the ostentatious 1980s.

Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes Oil on canvas 1897 by John Singer Sargent

Catherine Vlasto by John Singer Sargent


"The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink flowering thorn."
The opening line of "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Ever the aesthete, Wilde himself was profoundly affected by beauty and lived and dressed flamboyantly compared to the typical Victorian styles and mores of the time. He was often publicly caricatured and the target of much moral outrage in Europe and America.
His writings, such as Dorian Gray, also brought much controversy for him but he was part of the ever-growing movement of 'decadents' who advocated pacifism, social reform, and libertarianism. While many vilified him, he was making his mark with style and wit and enjoyed much success with many of his plays. Wilde was lauded by and acquainted with many influential figures of the day including fellow playwright George Bernard Shaw, American poets Walt Whitman and
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The Aesthetes' commitment to their theories and beliefs was so strong that eventually aestheticism transcended the boundaries of art and became a way of life. This meant that an aesthete was not only confirmed as such by his work, but also by his behavior. For example, one could typically pick out an aesthete simply by his word choice. They tended to use exaggerated metaphors and superlative adjectives, like "supreme, consummate, utter, and preciously sublime" (Damrosch 1939).

A Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881 is a painting by the English artist William Powell Firth exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts (London) in 1883.
Depicting the contrast between Aesthetes and Victorian fashions of the late 19th century.

" Pre- Raphaelite Art"

The Bromley Children ca. 1843 by Ford Maddox Brown

Edwardian Children in Costumes

Racinet, Regency Empire shawls ca. 1888

Jane Morris "The Blue Silk Dress" Dante Gabriel Rosetti ca. 1868

"Dress Reform"


More comfortable attire was part of the aesthetic movement in an attempt to reform the artificial nature of the 1880s and '90s fashion with its call for stays, corsets, added bustle forms, ribbons and lace.

"Gertie Millar" Australian Gibson Girl

"Woman with Lily" courtesy of George Eastman House ca. 1905

Freedom of movement can be achieved due to soft materials and loose fit. Long hair pulled into a bun was easier to manage than the over-coiffed hair styles in vogue.

"May Day" Kate Greenaway

Mother and Children (Madame Faydou and Her Children)
The National Museum of Western Art
Year = 1897
Oil on canvas

Carnation Lily, Lily Rose...John Singer Sargent


Aesthetic dress encompasses a range of modes, from the Japonnaise gowns and Kate Greenaway-inspired children's smocks, to the velvet jackets and knee breeches favored by Oscar Wilde, thus influencing the mainstream fashion, from the artistic circles to the fashionable ones.

"The Reformed Dress, ca. 1902"

Aesthetic dress worn for a recital "In a Berlin Singing Academy" in Max von Boehn's Modes and Manners of the 19th Century.

Aesthetic dress of the 1880s and ‘90’s is characteristic for the absence of tightlacing, its simplicity of line, and emphasis on beautiful fabrics. It rejects the moral and social goals of the Victorian Dress Reform movement that was its precursor. The Aesthetes believed that the Arts should provide refined sensuous pleasure. The delicate lines of late aesthetic dress, paved the way for the early Art Deco creations of Paul Poiret