Thursday, January 15, 2015

Metal Doll and Automaton Video of the Month

This month's video tells the history of metal dolls, metal heads, dolls with metal parts, mechanical dolls and automatons.  The earliest suggested figural  movement is portrayed in cave paintings from Prehistoric Europe, tens of thousands of years ago.  Ancient play dolls, like the 1st century Roman doll of carved bone, were articulated, much the same way modern dolls are. Automatons have their origins in talking statues from Ancient Egypt, but they, and puppets, were known all over the Ancient World, and Xenophon allegedly wrote of them.  Mechanical figures and figures of metal were known in Ancient Continental Africa, Egypt, Europe, Asia, and America. The Celts made bronze figures, and Bible talks of The Golden Calf in The Old Testament.

The 18th century was the heyday of automatons, and they were written about in Mr. Haddock's Androids, 1797.  Yet, even in the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci and others experimented with them, and Cellini made figures of gold and silver.  Wealthy families had soldiers of metal and silver, and toys of silver, and even gold for their children.  Sir Thomas More spoof them in Utopia, where he would have precious metals and gems devalued and given to children as toys.

Edison experimented with dolls that were both metal bodied and talked.  Maezel, inventor of The Metronome, created the mamma doll, and Huret and Rohmer fought in a law suit over the patent for a zinc bodied doll.  Huret, Vervelle, perhaps Bru, Minerva, Juno, Dina, Giebler-Falk, and Vincent Lake made metal headed and all metal dolls that resembled china and bisque heads, but were said to be unbreakable.  Soon, almost all dolls had metal parts or hooks, especially Schoenhuts and Joel Ellis dolls. Shown in the video is a mint Minerva in Black Forest Dress, once in The Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art.

Robots and metal space toys soared to popularity between 1930-70, and continue to be very popular.  Here, there are examples like Robosapien, Lost in Space, Dr. Who Clockwork Figures, and Robopet.

These dolls endure the test of time; metal dolls and automatons continue to be made, and without a doubt, their sturdy and/or key-wound little bodies with dance into the future to the tune of "Coppelia" and "The Nutcracker Suite."

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