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Reproduction Ancient Roman Jointed Doll Of Bone


Yuri

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Well, the title speaks for itself. It isn't a copy of a specific doll, but a kind of generic carving of a type. There are something like a dozen or so complete or near-complete ones surviving, though I have to say they are mostly ivory (In one solitary case amber). There are a few bone ones, though. There also are dozens of bits and pieces, mostly bodies, but also limbs, existing. This one has been made on order. The material is once again horse metatarsus. (Amazing material, isn't it?) The size is 17.5 cms (about 7")

 

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Most of the surviving Roman dolls are difficult to date exactly, but they all tend to fall within the 1st-4th c. AD. There are Greek ones, that are older, but they are quite different, and generally simpler.Also, nearly all of these are terracotta, not ivory.

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Hi Yuri,

 

Yes the material is very beautiful. It would be even better if I could feel it! Thank you for showing us this connection to an ancient form of carving brought into this century. Were you able to see how the old pieces were jointed or hinged? Would it be possible that you are willing to share the techniques of making the hinges?

 

Again, thank you.

 

Janel

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Thank you all for the glowing opinion.

The pinning of these dolls is actually amazingly straightforward. All it consists of is a pin of (in this case) 2 or 2.5 mms, with a slightly larger head, (3 and 3.5mm respectively (the arms have 2mm pins, the legs 2.5)) long enough to be pushed into the corresponding hole in the body and also take the limb. These four are for the upper (the upper arm and the thigh) joints. I used a drop of superglue to glue them into the body, I imagine the ancients would have used animal glue. The holes through the limbs are very slightly enlarged, so the limbs swing freely, and also have a larger hole going in a bit, to take the "heads" of the pins.

The elbow and knee joints don't have a larger "head" to the pins. I have, after drilling out the appropriate holes, tapered them with a very shallow tapered diamond bit, and the pins are tapered correspondingly. So before assembling and gluing the whole, the pins were already sitting tight in their places. I turned all the pins on the lathe, I don't think any other way is precise enough. Also, the drilling is best done when the bone pieces are already cut out into square cross-section outlines, as you can drill all the holes under a drill press, with all the joints already made and lined up. Hope it makes sense.

The doll here is an example of the majority type. The legs are joined to the body via that squareish block on the bottom of the body. Because of the whole shape, they cannot actuall bend, just swing a little bit. As far as I can see on the photos of the originals, that would have been the case with the originals,too. Unless you use something like a piece of string, and leave a bit of slack instead of the pins. But it still wouldn't make sense not to shape the bottom of the body and the top of the thighs in a way that is conducive to full bending. There are a very few other kind of dolls surviving, 2 or 3, where the legs are attached in a different way. These don't have the square bit at the bottom of the body. Instead, they have two protrusions, exactly the same as in the elbow/knee joints, and th thighs corresponding slots to take these. With these dolls, you can sit them down. I suspect the kind that I made were used more for dressing up than for actual playing (though the line is thin indeed. Since I never have been a little girl, I wouldn't know much about it, but I do have a daughter, and have observed her playing with little dollies.)

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