Friday, 3 April 2015

Elva Brain's Doll

Elva Brain's Doll, Brain Watkins House
Image courtesy of Brett Payne
This doll forms part of the Brain Watkins House Collection, and is displayed in one of the bedrooms of the house.

Cabinet Portrait of Elva Brain with her doll
Taken at Tauranga by T.E. Price, c. 1898-1900
Image courtesy of Brain Watkins House Collection

It is presumed to be the same doll that is displayed being possessively held by Joseph and Kate Brain's youngest daughter Elva Phoebe (1891-1979) in this cabinet portrait, taken around 1898-1900 at T.E. Price's corner studio on The Strand.

Elva Brain's Doll, Brain Watkins House
Image courtesy of Brain Watkins House Collection
Unsurprisingly for a doll well over a century old, she is not in pristine condition.  A close-up photo demonstrates that, although repaired moderately successfully at some stage during her life, the head has been damaged substantially.  Society member Justine Neal has kindly provided the following description:
Her face is wax over composition, with composition arms and legs, the legs ending in painted socks and shoes. She is unmarked. Her body is cloth , straw stuffed and well made. She has her original underwear. Her hair is mohair but that puzzles me a bit because if she is the same doll as in the photo, and she looks like it, then it must be a replacement wig. The cracks on her face are common damage to these types of doll.


The loss of eyelashes perhaps explains why the doll's eyes look somewhat larger in the original cabinet portrait.  It's not clear whether she still has her original head of hair, although if so, then it is clear that she was subjected to at least one rather radical haircut.  Justine thinks the curls of the current doll are too tight and close to the head to be trimmed from the original, and is of the opinion that, since the head is of a shoulder-plate type which can be removed, this one is probably a replacement.

The Brain Watkins House museum, situated on the corner of Cameron Road and Elizabeth Street, Tauranga, is open to visitors every Sunday from 2.00 to 4.00 pm.  Private group tours may be arranged on request.

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