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 Minuscules, the playful universe of pocket dolls

On the occasion of the museum’s 20th birthday, two special exhibits are presented on Snow domes and Miniature dolls.

For this new exhibition, the museum puts under the spotlight the playful universe of « minuscules ». They are pocket dolls that, from the last quarter of 19th century, reign on an idealized microcosm made up of houses, rooms, furniture, settings, clothes and other accessories that make them highly desirable as collectables.

Simon & Halbig mignonnette, circa 1884 (18 cm)

The Pocket Dolls appeared on the market circa 1876, Simon & Halbig mignonnette, circa 1884 (18cm) at the same time as the articulated bebe. The most requested models were entirely made of bisque, while cheaper ones were realized with semi-articulated composition bodies. These little dolls, which fit into a pocket, made in France and Germany, became children’s most beloved toys between the 1870 and 1914 wars.

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French mignonnette (13 cm), new outfit, antique box

At the beginning they were called « miniature dolls », a certain Fernand Sustrac deposited a patent in 1877 for the production of entirely articulated 14 cm tall dolls with ball joints at the elbows and, sometimes, at the knees.

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Mignonnette from Sustrac patent, circa 1877 (14 cm)

In 1879 some « pocket dolls » appeared in some parisian ’departement stores’ catalogues, made among others by Gaultier, Julien or Schmitt.

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Simon & Halbig mignonnette
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French mignonnette in Jeanne d’Arc costume (11 cm)

In August 1878 La Poupée Modèle launched a pocket doll, later named, in February 1880, « Mignonnette ». This miniature doll was sold by this children’s magazine until 1917 and it reached the peak of popularity at the beginning of the 20th century.

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La Poupée Modèle, 1892
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Mignonnette from La Poupée Modèle, original trousseau wardrobe from prints on fabric, circa 1895/1905 (13 cm)
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Print on fabric

The 1912 SFBJ catalogue (Société Française de Fabrication de Bébés et Jouets) presented an extraordinary collection of « Lilliputiens », all bisque dolls, standing 6 cm, with historical, folk or carnival costumes.

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SFBJ Liliputiens (6 cm) 1912
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Au Nain Bleu box, 1912

The « minuscules » came from Germany : they were 3 to 3,5 cm tall, made by Carl Horn and recognizeable at their entirely knitted costumes.

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Carl Horn minuscules, mid war period (3 to 3,5 cm)

In France, the Lilliputiens by SFBJ and box Au Nain Bleu, 1912 (6 cm) main miniature doll maker was the porcelain maker François Gaultier, who worked until the end of the 19th century.

His main German competitor was Simon & Halbig, which dominated the western market after Gaultier interrupted the production in 1899. Simon & Halbig’s mignonettes experienced a bigger success than Gaultier’s, what explains why they are commonly found in France.

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Simon & Halbig mignonnette, circa 1885 (15 cm)
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French mignonnettes and their wardrobe, 1879 (13 cm)

This exhibition aims to show how this collection can be enjoyed today. A variety of miniature objects can be gathered around these pocket dolls: wardrobes, pieces of furniture, accessories, settings, rooms and houses… Pocket dolls are not simply "dolls", they are the center of a universe which reflects the everyday life during the Victorian age.

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Simon & Halbig mignonnettes, original furnished room, circa 1890

On top of the collection of pocket dolls already presented in the museum’s permanent collections, other mignonettes and their settings will be presented in our temporary rooms in order to show the degree of sophistication of these toys.They could be bought ready-made in some specialized shops such as Au Nain Bleu,Au Paradis des Enfants… or ordered from specialized magazines such as La Poupée Modèle.The term « mignonette » has, as a matter of fact, been popularized by this magazine and it is today a generical term which refers to this category of little dolls.

It is interesting to notice that many different approaches can be observed among the collectors of « minuscules ». The purists care only about antique mignonnettes surrounded by antique objects. The handy collectors love building universes on their dolls’ scale and mixing antique and modern objects. Finally sewing lovers make trousseaux for their antique dolls and/or their reproduction mignonnettes.

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The toy shop
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Asian mignonnette

Apart from the historical and technical interest, the minuscules’ world stands out today for the fascination it holds for children and adults.Everyone can appreciate the sophistication of these delightfully detailed toys on such a reduced scale, dream in front of doll houses of the Victorian period, admire the elegance of these tiny dolls’ trousseaux…

To complete the exhibition, the museum offers :

workshops for children and adults

antique and modern items for sale as well as books, supplies and patterns for pocket dolls lovers.

A book by Agathe Philip on Simon & Halbig pocket dolls will be available on the occasion of the exhibit.

Past exhibits-MUSEUM CLOSED FOR GOOD Dolls from the 80s Best friends Betting on Dolls Hollywood Stars as Dolls Héros de l’ORTF - la télévision française en jouets des années ’60 aux années ’80 Bécassine dévoile les Trésors de Loulotte Minuscules, the playful universe of pocket dolls Snow globes Barbie Rétro Chic Fashion dolls under Napoleon III ETHNICITIES - Dolls reflecting People Baby-boom 2, French dolls 1960-1979 Poupées ’Made in Italy’, 1880-1979 Jouets de garçons Images exquises Barbie® et Ken® jouent les stars de tous les temps Ken®, 50 ans d’un modèle masculin Baby-boom French dolls, 1946-1959 Le Minor dolls Le retour du Père Noël Nouvelles icônes, des poupées Pandores aux Sybarites Maisons de poupées, l’art de la miniature Rêve ta vie avec Barbie Par amour pour les poupées Poupées et jouets : l’éveil des 5 sens Les poupées des Petites Filles Modèles Les mille et une vies de Barbie Quel spectacle ! les arts du spectacle en poupées et jouets L’Europe des 25 en poupées régionales et folkloriques Boules de poils, le meilleur de la peluche française, 1876-2006 Dodo l’enfant do : poupons et baigneurs, 1855-2005 Arts ménagers pour poupées : la vie quotidienne en miniature Les poupées de La Semaine de Suzette fêtent leurs 100 ans Les poupées Raynal : 50 ans de luxe pour petites filles Barbie raconte 5000 ans d’histoire du costume Tendres doudous : poupées et animaux en tissu Personnages de contes : hommage à la création Poupees de poche : de Mignonnette à Polly Pocket


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01 42 72 73 11


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