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SOLD-VERY RARE male wax tailor's doll, likely PIEROTTI - c.1845 (with provenance)

Our Price: £1,200.00

Antique wax tailor's doll - VERY RARE! - male - most likely by Enrico Pierotti dating c.1845 due to the provenance of the location in which it came to light recently (on the Isle of Wight, where Queen Victoria resided in Osbourne House and which is just over the water from Portsmouth). Read on to work out why!

Dolls like this don't come up everyday and if they do, they are usually female. This one is male and we have been nicknaming him "Meerkat Man" due to his stance and costume but in reality he is a special find!

He came to light recently on the sale of items from a significant estate on the Isle of Wight, across the water from Portsmouth where the Pierotti's found themselves when first coming to England.

The drop shouldered style of outer coat and the neckerchief indicate a period in British fashion history synonomous with the Dandy's era. The flamboyance of the Dandy's and Dandizettes brings up names such as Oscar Wilde, Coleridge and Swinburne to name but a few of artistic temperament. Swinburne lived on the Isle of Wight at East Dene in Bonchurch and his friends, Oscar Wilde and Coleridge, visited on many occasions. Of course the Isle of Wight was home to Queen Victoria at Osbourne House and it is known that Pierotti did repair dolls for Queen Victoria.

Of course, the mid 1800s was also a great era of British colonialism and so this fashion doll may well have been tailored with the hotter climes of the orient in mind. It may have passed between European courts or over to America or travelled the colonial outposts to keep people in touch with the current British fashions. It has found itself back in England ...

The striped shirt and trousers indicates a design moving out of the 1840s and into the 1850s which is why we believe this to be a tailor's fashion doll looking forward to the next phase of male fashion when Dandy was becoming more austere and paving the way to what we now know as the suit!

The coat is fashioned in raw silk and does have some staining and some paint mark (shown in the photos) but the fabric is generally in good condition for its age. The trousers are pinstriped and the shirt of blue and white striped cotton, finished with a piece of lace for the neckerchief.

The face and hands are fashioned from wax and the nose shows slight melting (often happens with wax dolls). Real hair is needled in to make eyelashes and a balding head of hair. Under the neckerchief, the edge of the wax mould at the bottom of the neck end is slightly pulling away from the inner frame which looks like some kind of wood. We will pack it to protect this but please be careful when opening the parcel and taking the doll out.

Height: 17" including the base on which he stands.

It helps to understand the true value and provenance of location in which this doll was found, by delving a little into the history of Pierotti family and dolls. It is as follows:

The Pierottis were originally Italian land owners and wine exporters in Lucca and Volterra. The first member to come to England in about 1780 was Domenico, who was sent after an injury to undergo the surgical treatment, not available in his native land. Domenico, a boy at the time, stayed in Portsmouth with an uncle and aunt, by the name of Castelli. Later he ran away to London, where his skill as a modeller in papier-mache was soon much in demand. He made the delicate panels and relief patterns for ceilings and cornices so much a feature of Regency interior decoration, and about 1790 began making wax dolls. At the same time, his aunt, Madame Castelli, an English woman, was making composition and wax-coated papier-mache dolls and figurines in Portsmouth. She and her husband also made wall and ceiling panellings coated with plaster, and tailors' and milliners' figures of papier-mache dipped in wax.

Domencio married Susanna Sleight, daughter of John and Susanna Sleight, born on January 17th, 1773. His son, Enrico, trained in the same craft as his father, abandoned the making of ceiling and wall panellings and turned his attention to the modelling of wax portraits and effigies. He modelled the portraits of various civic dignitaries and other prominent persons, some of which appeared at the Pantheon. His dolls were of an extremely high quality with eyebrows, lashes and hair embedded in the wax as described.

Enrico married Jane Gumbrell in 1828, and died in 1871, leaving a family of four sons and four daughters. One of these sons, Charles William, who in 1859, married Mary Roach at London's famous All Soul's Church in Langham Place, took over the business on the death of his father.

The family settled at Hammersmith. The work was always carried out in the home with no set hours, no routine, dependent only on mood and necessity. The less important tasks were undertaken by semi-skilled men and women, but the skilled artistic work remained in the family. They employed no advertisers nor canvasers, but had no difficulty in selling all the dolls and figures they could make to Peacock's, New Oxford Street, the famous Cremer's of New Bond Street, Hamley's, then in both Oxford Street and Regent Street, and to Francis Hamley, a brother, of New Oxford Street, Mrs. Morell and Mrs. Aldred of Burlington Arcade, Aldis of Belgravia, and many other well known toy men of the day.
But in 1877 Charles William contracted lead poisoning from the lead base used in the wax to make the images, and was unable to continue. The work was carried on by his wife and eldest son, Charles Ernest, and continued under the old business name of H. Pierotti. Mrs. Pierotti cut and sewed the cloth bodies until she was nearly ninety years old. Although the heads and limbs were entirely realistic, the bodies of the baby dolls were all given the same narrow waists as the adult dolls.
For the making of heads and limbs the wax was melted to blood heat, although no thermometer was used, in a silver-plated iron cauldron known as "the fish kettle," over a fire in the kitchen range. Melted white lead, carmine, and other colours were added by being pressed through the mesh of linen bags by a small stick while the wax was molten, the basic tint being determined according to the complexion needed.
The moulds were laid in rows on a bench, nine or ten feet long. First they were heated in boiling water. Then the water was shaken off and the moulds wiped with a soft cloth. As one assistant did this, another would fill the moulds from the kettle with fluid hot wax. Six to twelve moulds were filled at one time. When the wax showed signs of setting to the required thickness, the residue was poured out, leaving a settlement about a quarter of an inch thick.
The moulds were usually made of three interlocking parts, the face and front in one part, and the back of the head in two. Arms and legs were usually in two or three parts, according to the curve of the limbs. The parts were bound together with a strip of linen. When the moulds were removed, the seams were smoothed with a smoothing blade, eye-holes cut out, and nostrils, mouth and ears finished with a knife.
The eyes were inserted by being fixed to a flat stick by means of a dab of wax, warmed over a spirit lamp, then pushed into place from inside the head, and pressed against the apertures until the wax set. The whole head was then smoothed with turpentine applied with a soft cloth. It was next powdered with starch powder, brushed on with a dry painter's brush, and cheeks and ears rouged with wadding. Lips, cars and nostrils were dry-painted with a camel's hair brush. Eyelashes were then inserted, and eyebrows, and lastly the hair.
The hairs were inserted three or four at a time by being cut into the wax with a sharp scalpel, using a right to left undercut, and the wax was afterwards flattened with the back of the scalpel. In the best models the hairs were inserted singly. For a time, when it was discovered that the Pierotti models were being pirated, the heads were marked with the name of H. Pierotti under the hair at the back of the head, but many heads are unmarked. The fringe was put on first, so that half finished babies looked like chubby priests, and the hair was then worked up to the crown. For longer curly hair, damp strands were curled around sticks and baked at a low heat.
Forty or fifty models might be produced at a time, in six or more different sizes. Heads and limbs were sown on to bodies stuffed with cow hair, through holes reinforced with metal eyelets. The holes in the limbs were made with warm needles. The cow hair, packed in bales, was bought from leather dealers. That cow hair was replaced by kapok about 1900 is a useful guide when dating a doll. All this stuffing and sewing was carried on by the women members of the family.
The Pierottis also made wax figures for display work, hairdressers' heads and tailors' models. It is known that dolls were made also repaired for Queen Victoria by the Pierotti family, and tiny wax model figures were made for a cake for one of the Royal weddings.
After Charles Williams died in 1892, his son, Charles Ernest, carried on the business. At some time three of his brothers helped, but later he worked alone. He finally retired in 1935, when he was seventy-five years old.


SOLD-VERY RARE male wax tailor's doll, likely PIEROTTI - c.1845 (with provenance)
SOLD-VERY RARE male wax tailor's doll, likely PIEROTTI - c.1845 (with provenance) SOLD-VERY RARE male wax tailor's doll, likely PIEROTTI - c.1845 (with provenance) SOLD-VERY RARE male wax tailor's doll, likely PIEROTTI - c.1845 (with provenance) SOLD-VERY RARE male wax tailor's doll, likely PIEROTTI - c.1845 (with provenance)