The Portuguese Doll
In 1900 my grandmother was born. She was brought up in Portugal and completely isolated from other children, spending all her time with her governess. At 8 years old a friend of her mothers gave her a doll, dressed completely in the Portuguese costume of the time. The doll was called Maria and became her lifelong friend. Many years later my grandmother would allow me to carefully dress and admire the beautiful Maria. It was, indeed, Maria who gave me my passion for antique dolls and set me on the path of doll lover and restorer.
At age 70 my grandmother wrote an autobiography of her early years, which was broadcast by the BBC. In it she writes:
‘As a child alone in a large house my main companion was my doll, Maria. One of my mothers friends had dressed her for me in full national Portuguese costume. she has been with me all through my life and sits on my desk, watching, as I write this memoirs.
I now recognise Maria as a bisque headed, Simon and Halbig doll, made in Sonnburg in Germany. Simon and Halbig were famous for making the finest dolls heads for many of the doll companies of the era. My aunt donated this beautiful doll to Brighton Museum of Childhood a few years later, not realising the meaning she held for my elderly grandmother. Maria had been with her for 80 years and was still in perfect condition.
Dolls still mean so much to us today. My house is full of doll from every period in time. I love to see how they make friends smile and begin talking about their own childhood and the games they played with their own dolls, teddies or treasured companions.
I now have a small ‘Heubach’ doll, which is dressed in a Portuguese national costume and sits in a cabinet to remind me of my own grandmother and Maria.
Do post any stories you have of your own and family dolls.