Monday, August 21, 2017

Hat's Off To This Absolutely Amazing Early Steiff Lady Doll!

Hold onto your hat - literally! What Steiffgal has to share with you today just might be head and shoulders above anything that has ever appeared in this blog before! Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of viewing a collection of absolutely outstanding pre-war Steiff dolls. Each was breathtaking in its own way, and she will feature a few in this blog over the coming weeks. She wanted to give the first tip of the hat to this particular one - and after seeing her, you will certainly understand why!

It's a hat-trick when it comes to this lovely Steiff lady. Here we have a magnificent lady doll with an elaborate hat built into her head. She is fully jointed and stands about 42 cm tall; her hat adds another 15 cm or so. She wears fabulous, hand made leather lace up shoes, thigh high socks, a purple felt skirt with orange and green flowers printed on it, a white cotton apron, and a black lace shawl with a matching black lace hanky. Her core body is made from orange felt, and that is how her upper torso appears. Her face comes to life with blue and black glass pupil eyes and very delicately hand painted facial features. 

Her "proper topper," Steiffgal suspects, maybe based on some regional or traditional European design. It is literally built on her head. The core of the hat is made from felt and is stuffed with excelsior. It is trimmed with three bands of brown velvet ribbon. The top and bottom of the hat are made from soft white fabric that has been pleated and folded in the most charming and interesting way possible. She does not have a mohair wig or any indication of painted hair.

There's no question that this doll would be a headliner in any Steiff collection. It is suspected that she was produced in the early to mid 19-teens, given her presentation and materials. After extensive searching, Steiffgal could find no mention of this doll and her remarkable "hat-head" in any of the standard Steiff reference books or materials. However, she was able to locate a photograph of a similar doll sold in 1990 at a Theriault's doll auction; it is shown here on the left and the photos is from Theriault's. It is possible that only a handful of these dolls were produced (the construction is so elaborate and therefore time consuming and expensive), that they were only manufactured in extremely small numbers for a special display, or that she was a prototype of some sort. Any of these factors may in part help explain why there is a dearth of information available about her.

Let's button up this discussion with a quick peek at her ID, which is also quite interesting. It turns out this lovely lady had not one, but TWO small trailing "f" buttons in her left ear. She also has a small hole in her right ear - just the perfect size for yet another button. Although the double buttoning in her left ear could be an accident, her ear is so small, and the button is so well placed, that the second button truly looks intentional. In the past, Steiff used multiple buttons to keep track of which items were samples, prototypes, and versions of items under development. In the 1920's, this usually took the form of a regular button in one ear, and a "muster" button in the other. It is entirely possible that this doll's multiple button system is an early form of this tracking system. Unfortunately, only she knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this incredible lady doll has given you something to hang your hat on!

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