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Dominique Pennegues

Raynal cloth dolls are known internationally for their artistic qualities. However, Raynal production of the thirties is repeated and no longer surprising. One must go back to the second half of the 20s, to feel a happy surprise. The first advertisement for Raynal dolls appeared in a Plaything Magazine of 1927, showing, alongside classic dolls, an ethnic caricature doll supposed to represent a chubby Gascon with fingers spread large hands (in fact a peasan from Normandie).

We have been able to find some copies of the valuable evidence of Margarete Steiff and Elena König Scavini's influence on Martha Gold Raynal's own creations,  ritght from the beginning of Raynal cloth dolls production in 1925.

We know the earliest dolls manufactured by Margarete Steiff in 1905 were representing ethnic comic characters, published in comics. Mama Katzenjammer, Missus and Der Captain are probably the most famous caricatur dolls produced by Margarete Steiff, after the famous comic strip "The Katzenjammer Kids" Rudolph Dirks published in 1897 in "The Sunday".

Elena König was most likely inspired by the stuffed felt creations of her talented predecessor when she presented in 1919, few caricature dolls, sometimes close to the grotesques, such as the rare black doll, with a pumpkin  shaped face and round eyes, the Dutch farmer or the oriental belly dancer. Marthe Gold Raynal at her turn repeated this same process a few years later.

 Her first production of classic dolls, of very poor quality, with a sateen molded mask and lower limbs attached to the body with metal buttons, preceded another production, richer and more interesting. Those caricature dolls allowed Raynal's dolls to find some place on the U.S. market, where French La Nicette dolls were already successful.

However, the cartoons dolls sold in French stores and abroad, as evidenced by the 1927 advertising in Plaything, appear to have been used in France mainly for cabarets, dancings, and for "cotillions" which were very fashion at the beginning of the century. These so called "Cotillions"  were often organized for charitable causes, and some of the prizes offered during the final medley could often be of great value. We have also found in the United States some "classical" Raynal dolls won in Parisian cabarets and dancings, carefully dated by their owners, and kept safely in memory of a honeymoon in Paris. The common thread that unites dolls cartoons with them is the quality of the clothing, where organza and silk are often present.

 Both Raynal dolls named "door prize" and "door stage" we have studied had a skipping rope, similar to those sometimes seen on Lenci dolls of the period, and were both dated 1927 on the back of the Raynal paper label by their original owners. They are by no means inferior dolls, sold at low price as one might think, but real dolls ornament.

Like Margarete Steiff, Marthe Gold Raynal has chosen for her first comic ethnic doll, a cartoon character in the person of a young Brettany girl named Bécassine by its creator Jacqueline Rivière in 1905 for the magazine La Semaine de Suzette. Stefania Lazarska (Ateliers Artistiques Polonais) had first produced various versions of  Bécassine cloth dolls during the First World War until the late 20s. A vintage photograph shows one of them placed in the spotlight at the center of a group of dolls from the same workshop.

The features of this doll, found later in department store catalogs, are relatively faithful to the character drawn by Emile Joseph Pinchon for La Semaine de Suzette. Marthe Gold Raynal, for her part, respected in her interpretation of the young Bécassine traits of charactere of the small Bretanny girl Jacqueline Rivière had wanted to give her in the text, while standing out from the representation that made Emile Pinchon of her in his drawings. Thus, the naivety and innocence of Becassine is expressed in Raynal caricature by large,  blue eyes expressing surprise, while Bécassine by Emile Pinchon has black dots for eyes. On the other hand, the naked body of the caricature Raynal is not without suggesting that of a wading bird, to which family the becassine bird belongs, those birds having the reputation to be reither "naive".

This particularly grotesque body was not found on any other Raynal ethnic caricature. We also had the opportunity to observe the caricature of a young Britanny boy (probable refering to  Becassine’s friend Joel) produced probably a short time later, the features being less elaborated, but more modern at the same time, who can be seen (along the Becassine Raynal in red dress) on some Raynal dolls boxes.

For reasons of protection of artistic property, we can safely assume that the reversed colors for the clothing of the Raynal Becassine were designed to avoid prosecution by the authors. The robe is red, not green, but the wide white collar, red plaid apron, the blue and white striped pants (Becassine’s stockings are blue and white stripes), are reminiscent of certain representations of Bécassine as a child. The cap is white organza, dress is silk satin, and the red felt boots are lined with a yellow felt ribbon.

The first label "Poupées Raynal Modèle Déposé", royal blue and white, is sewn on the bottom right side of the dress.
The particularity of this rare cartoon doll is her large felt hands with spread fingers similar to those of comic ethnic dolls created by Margarete Steiff and Elena Scavini, especially on a nice peasant woman created by Elena Scavini which has very probably inspired Martha Gold for the creation of her young Brettany girl, this again confirms the influence of the Lenci dolls on Raynal's production throughout the 20s and 30s.

If Martha Gold Raynal has not been very generous to the Brittons with the cartoon dolls she made after them, it was not much better with the following caricature dolls. The young Gascon girl studied here has a round face  identical to that seen on the Gascon boy doll shown in 1927 Plaything and close to that of the other Lenci cartoon depicting a peasant. The colorful skin and mouth pursed suggest again ease of mind close to the stupidity, feature commonly attributed in the early 20th century to the French peasants by Parisians. This rare caricature is wearing a white bonnet made of organza, with matching cuffs on the jacket. The slippers are made of felt, with cotton socks. The label "Poupées Raynal Modèle Déposé Made in France" is sewn on the bottom front of the dress. This second label is slightly different in its design to that of the Brittany caricature, and the presence of "Made in France" tells us its subsequent, confirmed by the study of the doll body. As for Bécassine, the fingers are made flexible by a wire inserted in each of them.

 We have also  found this second type of caricature dressed as a Matador, likely referring to the opera Carmen by Bizet.

The third doll shown here is a young gypsy inspired from the same opera. Painted features express malice and intelligence, which is an exception with Raynal cartoon dolls. The hands are mitten shape, there is no rivet joints, and the body is the prominent behind of classic Raynal dolls from the late 1925, early 1926. Th brown hair silk is limited to a few loops on the top of the forehead, the rest of the skull being bald.

The following cartoon doll represents a young Norman. The painted features are deliberately simplified and suggest again a certain simplicity of mind. The body has a more discreet back, and the printed silk of the skirt, which can be also found on the dresses of some classic Raynal dolls, allow us the dating of 1927. The same cartoon doll is also seen wearing a peasant costume going to the fields, its head covered with a striped yellow, blue, white and red silk scarf , and dressed in a similar way to the Norman dress, but with a paisley print for the skirt. She holds in her hands a small package consisting of a blue and yellow tiles towel  containing a meal.

 Another Raynal caricature is a beautiful trumpet clown,which can be  added to the list of males cartoons in which males is also the Brittany boy, the Gascon, the Apache de Paris and the Matador. This list is obviously not exhaustive and is to be completed.

 The last Raynal cartoon doll encountered so far is a young African shepherd. The features are typical of caricatures of the 20s and 30s when it comes to representing the black type.

 This interesting cartoon is made of brown felt and its black hair is mohair. The type of body (stuffed felt) suggests the late 20's or beginning of the 30's. It might have been put on the market for the Paris International Colonial Exhibition of 1931.

It seems that the Raynal caricature production  has ended with this later specimen. Thus, Marthe Gold Raynal ended her caricature series as Elena Koenig started her own: with a black doll.