Papier-Mâché Elderly Woman

Name: Circa 1940s Papier-Mâché Elderly Woman

Made by and When: Unknown artist, 1940s

Material: Papier-mâché head, lower arms, and legs; mature brown cloth body, upper arms, and upper legs

Marks: Unmarked

Height: 13 inches

Hair, Eyes, Mouth: Black mohair wig underneath a red and white headscarf, painted black eyes, closed mouth with painted red lips and a wide smile

Clothes: Wears an aqua floral dress with a white (yellowed with age) organdy apron trimmed in red rickrack with a pocket that holds a red bandanna; the organdy apron crisscrosses a mature bosom. A white cotton slip and matching pantaloons are underneath the dress. Has painted-on black shoes. The fabric of the dress appears to have been made from flour sack or feed sack material, which was often repurposed to fashion into everything from dish towels to clothing in the early-to-mid 1900s.

Other: Able to sit or stand with the assistance of a doll stand, this doll’s body is made to sit. Because of its facial features, this unmarked, one-of-a-kind, hand-sculpted doll was initially attributed to the late I. Roberta Bell. Bell made her first dolls in the early forties using papier-mâché, oven hardening clay, and cloth. She used China head molds and other molds to make the 1940s dolls. It is not known if Bell began sculpting at that time. Bell’s known doll sculpting and creation of her own molds is documented as beginning during the 1960s. During the 1960s and beyond Bell signed the dolls or added a cloth Bertabel’s Dolls label to the dolls. This doll is unsigned and not labeled, but it does bear an uncanny resemblance to Bell’s work.



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Published by DeeBeeGee

Doll collector, historian, co-founder of the first e-zine devoted to collecting black dolls; author of black-doll reference books, doll blogs, and doll magazine articles.

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