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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Cromanticamente handmade dolls (babyccinokids.com)