Dressing Up!

Early 19th Century


Since at least the eighteenth century, paper dolls with their fashion wardrobes have beguiled and entertained young girls. Before they were produced commercially, children and adults alike made their own cut paper dolls by hand, dressing and accessorising them in the fashions of the day. The few surviving sets of such dolls are a fascinating insight into the cultural history and fashions of the time.

This original hand-made group is a cross-over between a paper doll set and a parlour game. Using an engraved portrait of Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of Prussia as the base, an impressive set of 24 finely-painted watercolours of historical and fancy costumes, including a couple of male outfits, with cut-out faces have been cleverly designed to be overlaid on the portrait. Most of these have a contemporary caption in light pencil, some difficult to decipher.

Amongst the overlays are Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots, A Country Miss, Swiss Peasant and Viola, each one richly coloured and nicely detailed. Hats include a crown, a mortar board, a turban and bonnets trimmed with feathers, flowers and ribbons. One Quaker style costume has been duplicated suggesting there may originally have been two sets created perhaps by (or for) sisters.

The engraved portrait has foxing to the white area though the image itself seems fine. The overlays are painted on lighter-weight paper and vary slightly in their overall dimensions. A couple have very short closed edge tears (not affecting the painted area) and all show light age-browning around the edges but are otherwise in good condition. There is no clue to the identity of the artist.

Item Ref. 7289

Size: 143 x 125mm with slight variation