Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saving Elswyth

This sweet little English wooden named Elswyth that recently came into our lives, was made in the very late 18th century / early 19th century. We were approached by a dealer who ask to completely restore her so she was sent to us for inspection. She is far from the rare and wonderful early 18th century dolls but from the moment she arrived, it was very obvious that her paint and patina is 100% all original and she is loaded with personality.
When she arrived here she captured my heart and I could just not put her aside. For a week or more, I carried her around with me and took her with me into the studio to start to work on her and every time I sat down to undress her or start the restoration, I just could not force myself to touch her in anyway.
Every day, I did the same thing, over and over. Carry her into the studio, look at that face and say, no way, I just can't do it.....
We were ask to completely restore and repaint her face and body and replace her arms and legs with correct wooden replacements along with re-dressing her. Basically there would be nothing left of her all original paint and her originality which made me feel just terrible and very anxious.
Elswyth may be the last phase of English wooden made in the late 18th/early 19th century but she is quite rare because she has remained completely untouched since the 1820's/1830's and this is a rarity for a little English wooden of any period.
Granted, as you can see, she had lost her original legs and arms but they were lost very early on in her life and were lovingly replaced as best as was possible by her little owner in the early 1800's with the most adorable cloth arms and legs and her lower body was covered as well, giving her a plump look in her simple dress. Her very simple and adorable but crudely made dress was made at the same time out of polished cotton dating from the 1820's/1830's and she has her original bonnet on as well. She has obviously remained untouched and exactly as she is today for almost 200 years now. Her sweet face shows signs of her age but I just could not bring myself to touch her and her surface finish and paint are stable so why ruin her I ask???
As you will see in the first two photos of her below, there was only one very distracting pop off of the paint layer, down to the plaster layer, just below her nose which ran down through her lips. This is the ONLY restoration I have done on her period (as seen in the third photo) and no one could really ever tell by just looking at her in person that her lips have had this small restoration. Of course I only put paint back where it was missing when restoring this area for her, giving her hint of a smile back to her.
Every time I started to undress her and remove those simple little arms and legs, something inside me said NO WAY! I just can't do it!
SO. I ask her owner, if they would please just sell her to us as is and they agreed.
Elswyth now lives here with us, resting on her own very special settee which sets right by my chair in our living room. We are so happy to have her and she will remain untouched and just as she is and has been for almost 200 years, as long as we are her caretakers.
I hope everyone enjoys the photos of this very simple but very special little survivor that has won my heart from the moment I unwrapped her. When anyone sees her in person, its so obvious that this little doll was so loved when she was new and throughout her entire life.
She is one of my favourite dolls now and will always be and I have a feeling, if she could talk to us, I think she would be one of the happiest doll we have ever know.
Just look at that face.
Hope everyone enjoys the photos and her story. Remember to click on the small images to enlarge them quite a bit to see the detail.

Blogger has evidentially changed to a slide show (which I do not like) when you left click on any of our images to try to enlarge them. Now they do not enlarge to full size.

To see any image full size, right click on the image, then click on "open link in a new tab" for a full sized image.
David & Paul