|One tagged and one untagged Lenci doll|
I wrote in my last post about my pleasure in having the opportunity to purchase a real, tagged Lenci doll from around 1940. Besides the fact I've always wanted one, or have wanted one at least since I was about 10 (this entire blog began years ago with a post about my love for Edith, a Lenci doll) I was happy to get one so I could definitively compare a doll I'm pretty certain is also a Lenci, but who has lost her clothing and tag.
|Two Lenci dolls|
|The large doll has a tagged dress.|
|Comparison to the small doll|
|Stitching on the large doll|
One of the myths about Lenci dolls is that if the doll has zigzag stitching on the back of the neck it's a Lenci doll. Lenci dolls are sewn this way (see the photos), but they were not the only company to finish dolls with this stitching, so it's not definitive proof of a Lenci doll.
|Comparison of the hands|
Another thing people say about Lenci dolls is the pointer finger and thumb are sewn separately, with only the center fingers joined. This is sometimes true, but not always. I've never seen a Lenci doll with mitten hands or stub hands, but I have seen different varieties of finger stitching. What I haven't seen beyond Lenci dolls and what to me is anecdotally almost a sure sign of a Lenci doll is the blushing on the hands. Lenci dolls are blushed extensively and beautifully from head to toe with pastels and the hands are no exception. Note the blushing on the inside of the pointer finger and less noticeably on the stitching line of the larger doll's hand and compare it to the faint traces of blush left on the inside of the thumb and along the stitching lines of the smaller doll's hand. Her other hand still has bright blush. The smaller doll had more play and more of the pastel blush wore away, but it's still there if you look closely. I haven't ever read this in any books, but I've sold probably about a hundred vintage and modern Lenci and other brands of pressed felt dolls over the years and none of them are ever blushed like the Lenci dolls. If you find one with the pastel blush intact and a Lenci face mold it's almost certainly a Lenci doll.
|The later dolls often have cloth, not felt, bodies.|
|Cloth body, tab joints, felt limbs|
Another thing to note in the photos above is the impressive detail given to the underclothes on even the smallest and cheapest Lenci dolls. The tiny lace trim on the petticoat and pantaloons are a Lenci hallmark, as is the scalloped felt edging on the small pantaloons. The early Lenci child dolls wore bodysuit style chemises with inset bands of tiny lace very much like the lace on the larger doll. If you find a Lenci type doll with such a chemise it's a good clue of a genuine Lenci, as are the felt edged pantaloons on smaller dolls. The following photos show examples of Lenci underclothes from the Coleman book. See the string tab joints of the arms in the first photo.
|A Lenci chemise with inset lace|
|Felt edged pantaloons|
|A surprise-face mascotte with felt edged pantaloons|
Lenci dolls, especially the child dolls of the 1920s, often have feet with toes defined by stitching and are sometimes marked on the soles of their feet or shoes. As you can see, however, a doll without this type of feet is not disqualified from being a genuine Lenci. The feet of both dolls shown are pieced together and have cardboard sewn inside the soles to aid in standing. Neither has a Lenci mark on the soles, although the small doll is marked with the number 5 on one foot. Note the small doll's legs are cloth and not felt, characteristic of later 1940-ish mascottes.
|Comparison of legs and feet|
By far the most famous and copied Lenci face is the googly-eyed "surprise" face. Almost every Italian doll company of the time produced similar surprised dolls for the tourist trade especially. The side glancing eyes are a famous Lenci trait, but many companies copied that so it's not a sure indicator. What is unique to the Lenci faces, especially all but the earliest ones, is the deeply incised sculpt. The Lenci googly eyes are pressed so thoroughly into the felt and painted with such shiny paint they look as if they could be glass. Some were in fact made of glass, but even the felt ones look at first glance as if they could be. Another fairly unique Lenci hallmark is the use of modeled and painted eyebrows. The eyebrows were sculpted into the mould so they stand out in relief on the felt faces and then are painted over with color. My little doll is a fantastic example of these Lenci qualities.
|The Lenci surprised face, with raised eyebrows and deep modeling.|
|More examples of surprise-faced Lenci dolls|
Another Lenci feature that's fairly exclusive are the use of applied felt ears. Even the tiniest Lenci dolls have ears. This was copied by other companies, but few made their ears with as much care as Lenci. The larger doll ears are two layers with tucks for shaping and top stitching and blushing. The small dolls' ears are single layer.
My small doll is notable even among Lenci dolls for her felt hair. I've seen a couple Lenci dolls with long felt braids but I've only read in the Coleman book about a doll with felt curls like this one's. There is no photo of that doll, but it is mentioned. I've never seen a Lenci-type girl doll with a felt wig other than actual Lenci dolls. Eros of Florence made a lot of male dolls with felt wigs but not female.
|The felt curls wig is unusual.|
I'm quite confident, indeed, I'm certain, this is a Lenci mascotte, probably from around 1940 or so, the same age as my larger Lenci. I plan to make a dress for her so she doesn't have to hang around in her underwear any longer and am perusing all the photos of various Lenci costumes I can find to help my design's authenticity. The large doll and many others are available in my Atelier Mandaline eBay and Etsy stores and this one will be for sale soon, so please check.