LA VENUS CLOTH DOLLS

Dominique Pennegues


La Venus dolls, as well as La Nicette and Magali dolls, are often confused with Raynal dolls whose production started  later.
 Their creators, Adrien and Marie Laure Carvaillo, began a production of "Articles de Paris" in 1915, after the departure for the front of their two sons, Robert and André, at the beginning of World War I. This Parisian couple was probably aware of the new movement initiated in Montparnasse in 1914 by the young Polish painter Stefania Lazarska for the making of artist cloth dolls and various decorative items. They also witnessed the success of another production of cloth dolls marketed under the name "Francia" and made at the initiative of Marie Christine de Bronzka, Baroness d'Eichtal, shortly after the creation of Stefania Lazarska's "Ateliers Artistiques Polonais".
 It is difficult to know exactly when Adrien and Marie Laure Carvaillo started to include cloth dolls in their making of "Articles de Paris", knowing that manufacturers do not always show their latest creations on the Almanac du Commerce, and that Adrien Carvaillo gave no details about it when he signed to  Registre du Commerce in August 1923. The reading of the analytical register shows  that the manufacturer has merely indicated the year 1915 as the starting date of his activity, and stated  the making of dolls, but it says nothing in the file  "trademark". We also note that the manufacturer's name appears in the Directory (AC by streets) from 1916 to 1921 as saler of ties and indicates that in 1921 (for displaying 1922) "articles for ladies ". We can therefore understand that artistic dolls were officially part of the production in 1921, which does not exclude that this making began in 1920, even may be earlier, however, it was not actually until 1922 that Adrian Carvaillo announced, for display on the AC 1923, his  "La Venus" art dolls.

 A  rare La Venus doll, in its original box, similar to three dolls shown in Le Printemps catalog for Christmas 1921 is the only early La Venus doll wich can be  identified for certain. But a doll has also been found which could well be anterior to the previous doll, however, as it's the only one we have ever seen, it is very difficult to assign it with certainty, but the resemblance in the mold faces  and the making of the  bodies is evident.
 The comparative study of these two very rare models  shows what will be the style of La Venus dolls until 1927: a round, full face, crowned with a rich and dense hair, a small and chubby body with abnormally thin ankles and the feet remarkably small. The whole suggests a desire for modernity and renewal, while suggesting also a foreign influence.
 The painted features of the "first La Venus" remind of the  Boudoir dolls from the late 10s and early twenties, and also figure reminiscent of the early Lenci dolls. Similarly, the material and the simplified style of the dress made of red felt and white felt pads is similar to the dresses of the first Italian dolls.
 A very special attention in the making of this interesting doll was given to details: the strands of mohair hair are set by hand one by one on the skull fabric, the makeup, painted eyes and eyelids are very sophisticated, and stitching marking the fingers of the hands and feet are handmade : overall, this small production bears the signature of a homemade one, probably very limited because they require an important time of work, both in the implementation of hand painted features on the face, in the very particular and meticulous hair fixing, and the making of the  parts of the body.
 The study of the first La Venus doll found in its original box, which can be dated from 1921, shows a desire to simplify to produce more: hair is composed by a long strip of curly mohair, like a stitched ribbon, and then attached to the skull with a simple hand stitch, eye makeup, while still more elaborate than that of Lenci dolls of the time, is less sophisticated than the previous one and therefore requires less time in its realization. The fingers are stitched by machine and there is no more marking toes. The mold used for the mask is very similar to the previous, with, however, a little more depth in the molding of the nose and mouth, which is printed rather than hand painted. Detail to remember is the small line (dot)  used to mark the eyebrows, the same as some Lenci dolls of the same period. This type of eyebrows will be kept for Venus dolls until 1927. The study of stores catalog in 1921 and subsequent years, shows that these dolls were proposed dressed in luxury silk and velvet dress, or in more ordinary outfit made of felt. The doll seen here is wearing a pink silk dress embroidered with black lines, a black velvet jacket with a wide silk matching beret trimmed with fabric flowers. The socks are white rayon jersey and shoes are white moleskin. The box containing the doll is solid blue, and wears a large white label marked "Les Poupées en étoffe La Vénus  Modeles Déposés No. .....Fabrication Française A.C. Paris. " The words "patented design" written with the plural form indicates that The Venus dolls  already included several models in 1921. However, Adrien Carvaillo having chosen to file its models "in secret" to INPI, it has not be possible for us to trace it so far.
 However, we were able to recover one model patent (1) that is appearing in department store catalogs for Christmas 1923
 This model was, as for previous, deposited in secret by Adrien Carvaillo in March 1923, and it's only two years after the death of the manufacturer, which occurred in December of the same year, that the model was made public at the request of Marie Laure Carvaillo in 1925. Meanwhile, Adrien Carvaillo had trademarked the name "La Poupée Venus" in September 20th 1923 and it is under this name that it can be found in the catalogs of some department stores, knowing that the Le Printemps department store, which seem to have been the first to introduce the production of Adrian and Marie Laure Carvaillo in 1921, presented the dolls Venus in the sole name of Monique from 1923 to 1930.

 The model introduced in 1923 has been successful for many years in France and abroad, and was privileged to be offered to the rich clientele of the luxury Italian store "BET Florence" (Italian equivalent of Nain Bleu in Paris) alongside his Italian rivals. It  also made the front page of the department stores Le Printemps in 1924, and it was also this one which was used by Robert Carvaillo (son of Adrian) to illustrate  the patent filed in May 1924 for "mobile metal eyelids "
 We can actually see a cloth doll with sleeping eyes of 37 cm in the catalog of Galeries Lafayette in 1924. It is stated "baby felt" while the classic dolls Venus of that time were fabric. However, the molded felt being easier for the application of Adrien Carvaillo's patent, the possibility it's a La Venus which is presented is not to be excluded as size 37 cm is also one of La Venus dolls size.

Three manufacturers of cloth dolls had filed a patent in 1924 for sleeping eyes: Robert Carvaillo (La Venus dolls) SFBJ but its sleeping felt doll is presented in catalogs wearing the shirt she wears on the picture of the model on the patent, it is therefore not the one seen here, and finally Pintel Cie. The Pintel dolls drawing lips is very similar to Venus dolls of the time, and it is difficult to distinguish the two productions when the doll is represented by a stylized design. On the other hand, the clothing is unusual for both manufacturers and does not help in identification. However, we know that Marcel Pintel had filed the same year an interesting patent for stuffed cloth arms which can be bent, and we see, on the drawing of the catalog of Galeries Lafayette, that the dolls with sleeping eyes have a folded arm. Should we see this as an application of the two patents by the manufacturer in 1924 ?
 We can not conclude about the identity of this mysterious doll shown on the catalog of 1924, and therefore are not able at this time to say that the patent application filed by Robert Carvaillo was or was not not effective.

 We must clarify that the first Venus dolls bore no marks,  then, shortly later, appeared in red letters on the sole of a foot dolls, the name "La Venus", and thereafter the word "Venus Marque Déposée". This marking finally disappeared in 1933.

 A new model of doll was created in 1927, with a face with different features and a more slender body. Eyebrows shaped as a dot were replaced by large eyebrows, painted eyes were richer in nuances, the mouth was more fleshy and with two shades. This beautiful model was also proposed in an all felt version  in 1929, dressed in boy or girl, with a new hairstyle called "Marcelle" for the girl doll. The proposed sizes ranged between 30 and 75 cm.
 In 1930, the La Venus dolls were sold with a label stating they were washable, and for some, hair could be combed. We had the opportunity to examine two Venus dolls, mold 1927, whose head with painted features seemed to be  made of Plastolite. One is flocked and has the appearance of felt, the other one has the appearance of porcelain and is effectively washable. Their neck is marked "Patented  - Venus". It is possible that it is this type of dolls that can be found in the catalogs of 1930 as "washable".

 For Christmas 1932, appeared in the catalog of Bon Marche, two cloth dolls side by side, looking very similar, one bearing the label Raynal, the other the Venus label. This new model of Venus dolls, with a molded felt head, and a new type of body made of stuffed fabric was proposed together with a second model, with a different mold for the face, but with a similar body. The similarity between the Venus and the Raynal model placed on the market the same year leads us to think that the molds were executed by the same Parisian manufacturer. A new label also appeared, square and pink, where one can read "Ets C. " (C for Carvaillo).

 In 1933, the S.A.R.L. Carvaillo and Son (Venus dolls) was bought by Marcel Desautel. The same label was retained by the new manufacturer, with just the letter "C" replaced by the letter "D".

 The last two types of dolls created by Marie Laure Carvaillo and son were produced by Marcel Desautel until the beginning of World War II.


 Ets Desautel & Co. and Raynal Co. put together on the market in 1934, an interesting baby,  (42cm for bent legs and 48cm for straight legs), with a molded felt head and stuffed jersey trunk and limbs. The head and body of these babies are completely identical, only the hands, celluloid or rhodoid differ, but not always. The unique opportunity to positively identify these La Vénus and Raynal babies is by observing the pattern of the lips which differs depending of the manufacturer. Those beautiful babies are often called "Shirley Temple type", even thought they appeared on the market one year before Ideal's one.
 

In 1936, a beautiful  smiling Venus (Shirely Temple type) appeared, whose body is completely similar to the Shirley Temple doll sold in Le Printemps stores in 1935 and 1936, with a molded felt upper torso and a stuffed cotton lower one. We note in this regard that this rare La Vénus doll has long and flat celluloid hands, made by Petitcollin Co., which is unusual for this production, which favored for its  babies and some of its dolls, rhodoid hands, or celluloid curved hands, more aesthetic than the flat ones. We have also had in hands a mostly rare La Venus "Shirley Temple type doll" with the more classical La Vénus 30's  stuffed cotton body and curved celluloid hands, with a Shirley Temple hair style. It is interesting to note that Raynal Co. also produced few Shirley Temple type dolls, often confused with the official Shirley Temple sold by Le Printemps, the difference being in the all stuffed cotton body and the mitain hands. Even thought collectors and sellers like to beleive that the official Shirley Temple cloth doll sold in 1935 and 1936 by Le Printemps was made by Raynal Co. there is no evidence what so ever that this is right.

Some Venus babies and Venus dolls called "smiling" were also sold with a Vuitton trunk, with an additional set of cloth with  Vuitton label sewn on it.
 A final model was proposed by Ets Desautel at the end of the  thirties which is a variant of one of the models on the market in 1932, but with a sullen expression.


 It's a Venus cloth doll which was chosen for the cover of the Bon Marche catalog for Christmas 1939, at the begining of WW1. The cover image, printed in an unusual black and white, reminiscent of the state of the sad situation in France, was the last appearance of  Venus cloth dolls whose production was not resumed after the war.

 (1) Monthly Letter Private Circle of Doll, June 2004. Communication by the author of the photo of the model introduced in 1923 and the text written by Adrien Carvaillo attached thereto.

 GALERIES :

 CARVAILLO PERIOD :

- Catalogs and else

- Photos

DESAUTEL PERIOD  :

- Catalogs and else

- Photos