Today we are publishing the first part of our interview with Mr. Francois Themer.
I met Francois Theimer in the Parisian hotel Ambassador. It wasn’t just an occasion, because here he conducts his famous auctions on selling ancient dolls that is being attended by collectors of the whole world. Francois kindly agreed to give me a small in interview for my doll blog.
— Who is the initiator, the so-called «father» of the French doll industry?
— Strange, but it was in fact a woman. It is really strange, because mostly the production of dolls as well as all other businesses were held by men. The most expensive and famous brands such as Bru, Steiner, Denamur, Thuillier, Jumeau were totally managed by men. However, they only improved what Mademoiselle Huret, a real French doll queen, created in the 1850-s.
Her appearance in that particular epoch was not occasional. Ideas of the French Enlightment, romanticism with its appeal to sentiments, works of J.J. Russo that paid attention to the development of the spiritual world of a child, all these factors influenced greatly to M-lle Huret. She descended from a wealthy family and was perfectly educated. Her mother died early, the father was a royal mechanic and was very busy at his work. She was being reared by her uncle, a police prefect and a great theatric fan. The girl loved theatrical clothes and once decided to sew a dress for an old wooden doll by herself. However, taking the doll she exclaimed, «What a heavy monster! How it’s possible to give it to children?!»
In 1850, she started her own business, a factory “Maison Huret”, producing a hundred French Fashion dolls per year. Up to now they are considered as the best and all the other doll manufacturers was following the M-lle Huret s principles.
— What were these principles?
— Esthetics and beauty, correct body proportions and height of a toy (for the convenience of a child playing with a toy its height must be somewhat of a one third of the height of a child). M-lle Huret pioneered many fields. She invited professional sculptors to take part in the creation of dolls. At first they mastered a doll’s head of the natural human size and then reduced it to the doll size. Nobody used bisque porcelain for the production of the doll heads before. It allowed producing dolls with delicate and spiritual faces.
She wanted the children to be able to play with her toys bending and unbending doll hands and legs, turning their heads and palms. That’s why she started to produce dolls with bodies made of gutta-percha. However, this material wasn’t durable and after some time it hardened and crumbled. In 1861 she took models for painters as a starting point for doll bodies with ball and socket joints and turning heads. Before M-lle Huret, the dolls just copied the images of adult women. She was the first to produce a girl-doll. Emile Jumeau only developed her idea by introducing his Bebe Jumeau in 1870.
The doll clothes also have a special history. Before Huret, the dolls were clothed in dresses which were sawn firmly to their bodies, thus it was impossible to remove the dresses without tearing them. Her dolls had several changeable sets of clothes, which could stimulate girls to start sewing the clothes for their dolls by themselves.