Meet Emmeline Grace.
Like my much loved Zwergnase dolls, the Schoenhuts are not to everybody's taste and 19" tall Gracie is far from perfect. She has had an adventurous life, of which I know nothing and which she is keeping to herself, but the evidence is there to be seen in the damage to her face paint and the fact that one leg has become detatched at her hip.
Her wig is not the best for her either. It is human hair and streaked with grey. Though she is a very old doll, around 100 years old, she is meant to be a child, so needs a younger look.
However, I am sure none of us will be able to stand so firmly when we reach our century of life!
There was quite a stiff breeze blowing when I took this photo of her and she stood unaided and firm on the wall top, despite her wonky left leg!
Famous for their "posability," the American Schoenhut dolls stand head and shoulders higher in their jointing than the dolls imported from France and Germany that my mother mainly played with in the 1920s. They have sprung joints rather than the cruder ball jointing that allowed my (horrible!) brother to later scare me by placing Mum's dolls in death poses, with their limbs splayed at impossible angles! If you put a Schoenhut doll in a position, s/he will stay there.
Making Schoenhut dolls involved expert carving, painting and engineering in their design and construction. There may be some creaking as the position is given to their 13 firm joints, but who would expect a 100 year+ old girl not to have creaking joints?
My mother tells me she had a toddler Schoenhut when she was little. His name was Ikey Bam.....because he made an excellent weapon when her older brothers teased her. I have the utmost difficulty in imagining my dear Uncle Roland teasing her, or anybody else, but I CAN imagine Mum weilding a doll as a weapon. Thank goodness Ikey was a solid, wooden doll!
For over two years, I have been considering whether, and how to get help for Gracie. Sending her back to the US to be repaired would be hugely expensive and I have seen many really bad restoration attempts made on these dolls. I would love to have her leg fixed back properly, a job for a real expert, but should I leave her as she is with regard to her paintwork?
I have looked at Schoenhut dolls on Ruby Lane many times and there seem to be a great many that have begun to be stripped back for repainting, before the would-be restorer has lost courage and sold the poor waifs on. There are also some that have been repainted badly, some even by "professionals,"and who now look far worse now than Gracie, perhaps far worse than before th repainting began.
So, perhaps I will leave her as she is. Nobody would strip back a piece of antique furniture, just because of a few dents. We think of that as the patina of use, so maybe the same could be said for these dolls. I will buy her a new wig as the one she is wearing is non-original anyway and, if anybody knows of a Schoenhut limb repairer, I would investigate that possibility, but I fear losing Gracie and having another character come home, if her face is vastly repainted.
However, my antique'n'vintage-crazy sister-in-law in Vermont is only too thrilled to be on the hunt for a doll that is much more damaged than Gracie and being sold at a very good price, for me to try out my skill - or lack of it- in working on. My daughter is also in London antiques circles and will look out for one there too, they do come up once in a while and are not well-known or particularly popular here. So who knows? Using the right materials seems to me to be key in such work and I am not even aware of what those are but, one day, Gracie? Maybe one day.
And there is also little Ikey Bam to be replaced.............. but kept firmly out of my mother's reach!