S.F.B.J. CLOTH DOLLS

Dominique Pennegues

 

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  The rage for cloth dolls began in France after Stefania Lazarska had brought them into fashion.

  S.F.B.J. could not stay without making their own and they did produce some « Lazarska alike »  dolls,  as we may see with the rare SFBJ stuffed cloth doll from the Coleman's collection shown here. Only the metal engraved buttons marked « S.F.B.J. » that string the limbs together allow to identify the doll, as it' s a near perfect copy of Stefania Lazarska's Ateliers Artistiques Polonais original cloth dolls with embroidered features, also S.F.B.J. having hand painted ones.

  However, S.F.B.J. needed a real know how to produce their own cloth dolls, after their own art   criterias, so they turn to Emile Lang.

 

  Emile Lang was already well-known since 1915 for his very artistic cloth dolls and stuffed animals created by well known artists such as Jean Ray, Albert Guillaume and Benjamin Rabier. He produced stuffed animals during WW1, and had already filed patents to improve the making of stuffed cloth dolls and toys, and made an agreement in 1923 with Emile Lang for the making of stuffed cloth doll animals and dolls. The stuffed animals created by Benjamin Rabier, the artist's Parisian dolls created by Jean Ray and those created by Beatrice Mallet who had formerly been produced by E. Lang until 1922 became the exclusivity of the S.F.B.J. by 1923.

  A new company was created by S.F.B.J. and Emile Lang for the production of cloth dolls and toys named « SOCIETE DES BEBES JUMEAUX » , with its own factory located 43 rue Corne-de-Cerf in Lyon.

  The trademark for the cloth dolls was « Bébés Jumeaux » to benefit from the renown of the famous name, The letter « X » was probably selected to make a difference between the two productions,

S.F.B.J. Continued using the trademark « Jumeau » for some of their dolls until the 1950's, and even some of the cloth dolls seen on Parisian stores catalogs, which should have been advertised as « Bébés Jumeaux » were listed « Poupée Jumeau »too.

Until 1924, the S.F.B.J. Cloth dolls bodies we have been studying are of the classical type , with suffed cloth trunk and limbs. S.F.B.J. Had filed a patent for a new machine for « stuffing toys » the same year. Heads were molded cloth or flocked molded cardboard with hand painted or printed features.

  New patents for a cloth doll with sleeping eyes were filed by the S.F.B.J. in 1924 for improvement in eyelids. A model of cloth doll with sleeping eyes was patented the same year. Mold used seems to be 247, with painted teeth.

 Paris stores catalogs showed some of these dolls made of felt, with sleeping eyes and metal lids with human eyelashes, The head and trunk are molded felt. The molded trunk is made in two parts glued together as explained in 1915 Emile Lang's patent, It is interesting to note that Lenci's dolls still had a stuffed trunk at the time, and that for this particularity, the Bébés Jumeaux were far ahead of their time,

  Their limbs are stuffed felt, and hands are of the mitain type as are the Lenci of the period. However, unlike Lenci dolls, the ears are molded. The felt used is a surprising hot pink color. The few models we have seen have blue glass eyes, blond human hair eyelashes, and mohair wigs of different colors.

  These modern Bébés Jumeaux were more expensive than the bisque head dolls from the same company : a 45 cm Bébé Jumeaux sold for 65 Fr while a S.F.B.J. Bisque head of the same size sold for 49 Fr. By1925, Le Bon Marché proposed the 38cm model for 82 Fr and 102 Fr for the taller one. These expensive prices could be the explanation why these dolls do not seen to have had a lot of success as very few are found in the collecting world today.

  There is another model even rarer and harder to find. This one is very different from the model patented in 1924, and only the sleeping eyes mechanism remains the same.

The mold used for the head seems to be the 251, and the slim silhouette indicates the doll represents a young girl, while the previous bébés presented here have the chubby body of a toddler. The felt used is not « hot pink » but flesh colored, and the neck of this very rare doll does not show a vertical seam, like all other cloth dolls do, but instead the two borders of the felt are glued together, after Emile Lang's invention patented in 1915. Also, the body is stuffed and not molded, with the top of the trunk in felt, and the lower part in cotton.

 

The major difference with the patented model, other than the slim silhouette, is the type of hands with separate fingers, like the Lenci dolls started to have in 1926 on , also the clothing shows no similarities at all with the Lenci dolls, Should we conclud that this attractive doll is « the » very fisrt all felt doll made by the S.F.B.J. before the 1924 patented model ? It would means that Lenci not only « copied » Emile Lang's 1915 patend for molded and glued trunk the Italian company started to use in 1926, but also his 1923 first kind of hands with separate fingers ?

By the end of the 30's, S.F.B.J. did not reach the success with their expensive all felt dolls that La Vénus, La Nicette or Raynal dolls had achieved with their molded felt heads on stuffed cotton bodies. S.F.B.J. also did produce some stuffed cloth dolls with Rhodoid (no flammable celluloid) heads, with hand painted features, like Raynal and La Venus dolls did from 1935 till the end of the 50's, but very few models remain and one may conclued S.F.B.J. did not meet enough success with their « Bébés Jumeaux » production to maintain it after WW2.