Italian Dolls

Bambola

Today I learned that Bambola is the Italian word for doll. I have been trying to find out a bit about Italian dolls recently. I have several dolls that were made there but so far I have not found a great deal of information on the internet in English.

About ten years ago I started a doll page on Yahoo Geocities which no longer exists. During my attempt to find some articles I came across what I had written back then so I will start off with that.

Italian dolls are fairly easy to find in Australia.

Many were sold here in the late 1940s and early 50s when British and American dolls were not easily come by in Australia. Others were brought to this country by their young owners who were immigrating with their families in the Post WWII era.

They were usually made of coloured Bakelite, a type of hard plastic and painted in flesh tones. The more common ones are large walking types. Some have wheels built into their moulded on shoes.

Many Italian dolls are easy to pick by their pursed lips and highly coloured faces. I also have black dolls in my collection which are often but not always exactly the same as their white counterparts except for the colour.

Some well-known Italian doll making companies are Lenci, Furga, Ratti and Sebino.

Since I wrote the above I have learned very little more. I was wrong to state on my old page that the large walking dolls were the most common. It would be more accurate to say they were the ones I had seen the most often.When we were children our father sent my sister and I large hard plastic dolls which I believe were made in Italy. This was in the mid 1960s and he was living in England. I don’t have mine any more but my sister still has hers. They both had elaborate hairstyles and their dresses were sewn on, they were not really designed as play dolls.

image Italian hard plastic doll
This is my sister’s doll. I had a similar one. She has been redressed
image Italian doll
Loretta, one of my Italian dolls is probably from the 1950s

Loretta-03On this page I’ll show you some of my Italian dolls and maybe someone will be able to tell me a bit more about each of them.

Above is Loretta who is a large walking doll and does have rollers on her feet. She is not wearing her original dress in the photo. When I bought her she was wearing this dress. Her original dress came with her but was in poor condition and I like the outfit she has on. As you  can see, underneath her flesh coloured paint Loretta is blue! I would guess she was from the 1950s when most dolls were still being made of hard plastic rather than vinyl. She has lost the cover for her Mama box but for her age she’s not in bad shape. Loretta cost me $30 at an Adelaide market and I thought she was well worth it.

image Ratti dolls
Two dolls made by the Ratti company

These two young ladies were both made by Ratti and have the marking on their backs. The one on the left is made of painted hard plastic. She has flirty eyes and an enormous voice box which protrudes from her stomach. The one on the right is made of a soft vinyl. She has a rubber squeaker in her back although it no longer works.I think she is a later doll.

On the Museum of Victoria website I found a photo of a doll which look similar to the one on the left but is dressed in Hawaiian costume, she is dated circa1955.http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/items/253074/doll-ratti-hawaiian-circa-1955. I haven’t been able to find a lot of information about the company in English except that Ceppi Ratti was a manufacturer and distributor of dolls and that they also made a fashion doll named Tanya. Ratti is now owned by Mattel.

image Sebino baby doll
cloth body doll with vinyl limbs by Sebino

Annie is made by Sebino and has a cloth body and vinyl head and limbs. I am not sure how old she is but these dolls were popular in the 1970s and 1980s. She has a battery compartment in her back.Originally she had a dummy and would cry when the owner removed it. I have never tried to see if she works or not as I don’t have the dummy. I bought her because I really liked her face. I think that she might be a Sebino Cicciobello Doll from 1979.

Last of all is Sophia, one of the most expensive dolls I’ve bought since I have been collecting. I bought her at an antiques fair and she cost me about $100 fifteen or so years ago. Sophia also has a cloth body but I can’t decide what her head and limbs are made from. It isn’t hard plastic I am sure.  She has fixed glass eyes and her hair is a glued on wig. I think she might be quite old.She is not marked so I am not totally certain that she is an Italian doll but I am sure she is European.

image older Italian doll
Sophia has a cloth body.

Other Italian Dolls

Lenci is another famous Italian doll maker.Lenci is the nickname given to Elana Konig Scavin who created dolls made from felt. The earliest Lenci dolls had sculpted and hand painted features. I don’t own a Lenci myself but have included a link which will tell you how to identify a genuine Lenci and something of their history.

Furga dolls have been made since 1872 when Luigi Furga opened his factory. I have added a link to a page with descriptions and photos of Furga dolls.

Further Information:

Furga
Furga (Photo credit: dog.happy.art)

http://www.ehow.com/facts_5631886_italian-dolls-made.html/facts_5631886_italian-dolls-made.html

http://dollreference.com/furga_luigi_dolls.html

http://www.squidoo.com/how-to-identify-an-authentic-lenci-doll

Museum of Childhood, London: Lenci Boy & Girl

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19 comments

  1. I have a large walking doll which I have always assumed was Italian (we always referred to her as Maria). She came with a record but this was broken and thrown away so I cannot tell you the song on the record. I think my parents bought the doll for me on the ship we sailed back to England on from Australia in 1961 as it was an Italian shipping company (the Sitmar Line). Either that or they bought it in Naples which was one of the ports the shop stopped at. I will see if I can find any makers mark on it. I recently retrieved it from my parents loft following their death.

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    • I would be really interested in hearing more about her. I know the Sitmar line. My family came to Australia on one of their ships “Castel Felice” in 1965. I don’t remember seeing big dolls for sale at that time but they may have had them in 1961 although I think Naples is quite likely too. If you have a picture I’d love to see it.

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  2. I have a ratti doll that I think is red riding hood with a speaker in belly. Have any info on the doll. Thank-you. Mike Schneider

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  3. Thank you for the info. on Italian dolls which I just found when researching an old doll I have from my mother-in-law. It’s marked “AL DO FOLLI MADE IN ITALY” and has one of those speaker boxes you called a “Mama” box. She’s 25 1/2″ tall and is made of a very light weight plastic…..not hard plastic as you mention. I wish I had gotten more information from her before she died at 94 but based on your info I believe the doll must be from the 50’s when she and her son (now my husband) came from Puglia in Italy. She made several outfits for the doll (her only one) which I’ll be selling altogether with the doll. But I wish I knew if she were older since it doesn’t make sense for her to have a doll from the 50’s unless as you say she bought it on the ship over!

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    • I’m glad you found my post helpful Marge. A lot of those large Italian dolls seem to have found their way here with migrants although as she was an adult when she came she must have been very attached to the doll to have brought it. It seems as if there must be a story behind it doesn’t it? I had not come across the name Aldo Folli before but once I googled I did find a few pictures so they must have been a reasonably sized company. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  4. I have just been given a Ratti doll, a 16 inch dark girl the same as the one in the Museum of Victoria, the Hawaiian one. She is a walking doll with her original hair and make up and lovely blue eye but unfortunately her eyes have fallen back into her head, could you give me any information on how to fix her eyes? The previous owner was given the doll in 1959 and wanted someone to love it and restore it which is how I got it.

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    • Hi, I think that would be a tricky repair to attempt yourself. Your best course of action would be to find a professional doll restorer to do it. You don’t mention where you are but if you live in a large city there is quite likely to be one in your phone directory. If you are in Australia I know that there are a couple of places in Melbourne, at least one in Sydney and another in Adelaide. Doll clubs and online collector groups on social media like Facebook should also be helpful with that information. Good luck with the restoration of your doll. I am sure she will be worth it if not in monetary value in the satisfaction of seeing her pretty blue eyes again.

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  5. My Mom has one Furga doll in her collection. Here is the link. I have not been able to identify her.The following is the only information I have found about Furga. Luigi Furga a nobleman from Italy, Furga Doll mark Mantua began his doll factory in 1872.
    http://www.kijiji.ca/v-view-details.html?requestSource=b&adId=1106483200

    The link following is an Italo Cremona Doll circa 1969 that was made in Italy.
    http://www.kijiji.ca/v-view-details.html?requestSource=b&adId=1107695270

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    • Hi Donna, I’m not familiar with this doll myself but hopefully someone who is will read your message and be able to give some more information. I will do a bit of searching myself too.

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