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Effigy-Like and Charmstone Shapes

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  • Effigy-Like and Charmstone Shapes


    “Frozen Charlotte” is a term used to describe a specific form of china doll made from around 1850 to 1930 and produced mainly in Germany. They were widely exported, especially to America, and sold by the gross.

    The most typical form is around 20-100mm high and moulded in a single piece from unglazed bisque porcelain as a naked, standing figure with a frozen lifeless pose. Glazed examples also exist. Although the term has also been applied to larger dolls (up to about 500mm) which may have articulated arm and/or leg joints, true frozen Charlottes are typically unjointed and often have minimal detail.

    [Picture by Wendy Kaveny - The Childrens Museum of Indianapolis – Creative Commons License]

    They are usually white/cream or pink-tinted and - more rarely - tinted or painted black. They may have a minimally painted face and very occasionally a moulded chemise as part of the body. Male dolls also exist (identified by a boyish hairstyle) and known as “frozen Charlies”. The legs are frequently conjoined like an Egyptian mummy and the arms may be ill-defined at the sides of the body or sometimes folded over the chest, like this example:

    [Picture by Ben Healley - Museum Victoria]

    They’re also variously known as “pillar dolls” (from the upright shape/pose), “penny dolls” (they sold for a cent), “solid chinas” and “bathing babies/dolls”. The latter name comes from those that may have a mob-cap moulded as part of the head (like those worn for bathing) and from pieces made with a glazed china front and an unglazed stoneware back that were designed to float in the bath.

    The small ones were popular as playthings in doll’s houses and the tiny ones were sometimes used as “charms” in Christmas puddings. They’re a frequent find on homestead sites and – especially when broken or weathered - are often mistaken for some kind of Native American effigy figure. This is a typical example:

    [Picture from [Camille] on the University of Maryland’s Lattimer Archaeology Project website]

    Naming Origin

    The origins of the nickname “frozen Charlotte” are confused, but:

    An article appeared in the New York Observer on 8th February 1840 concerning a young woman who froze to death while riding to a New Year’s Eve ball on 31st December 1839 with her sweetheart in an open sleigh. It was said that her vanity persuaded her to not wrap up because her ball gown would not then be seen and admired.

    The journalist Seba Smith published a poem inspired by the events in the Maine newspaper “The Rover” in 1843 under the title “A Corpse Going to a Ball” but later known under the title “Young Charlotte”. Smith’s original version includes the following stanzas:

    “O, daughter dear,” her mother cried,
    “This blanket ’round you fold;
    It is a dreadful night tonight,
    You’ll catch your death of cold.”
    “O, nay! O, nay!” young Charlotte cried,
    And she laughed like a gypsy queen;
    “To ride in blankets muffled up,
    I never would be seen.”

    The blind folk balladeer William Lorenzo Carter from Vermont probably popularised the story as a song based on Smith’s poem, for which various versions exist under the titles “Young Charlotte” or “Fair Charlotte”.
    Last edited by painshill; 01-28-2016, 07:36 AM.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.