Painted cut-out paper figures, mostly individual women performing household tasks, playing musical instruments, doing needlework, etc.
Portraying mostly women and children as they perform domestic tasks (sewing, cooking, harvesting, or teaching/learning) and leisure activities (reading, writing letters, painting, or playing music), these richly decorated, hand-painted paper dolls present a broad view of mid-nineteenth-century daily life. The mass commercial appeal of paper dolls arose around 1850 when these dolls began to appear in popular periodicals; however, homemade, hand-painted dolls had been circulating long beforehand. These dolls belong to a larger set of 85 figures, which were crafted around 1855 for a young girl in the Canadian town of Drummondville outside Quebec City, as indicated by an inscription on the reverse of one doll in the set and by a November 1924 article in Harper's Magazine featuring a descendent of the original owner, Ms. Lenox E. Chase. While it is unclear who painted these dolls, and while they may have been produced over an extended period of time given variations in the stock and coloration of the paper, all of the dolls seem to have been crafted by the same artist and each one includes its own unique name, written on the verso by the same hand each time. Genealogical records suggest that the dolls originally belonged to the Sutherland family, a Canadian family of British descent who had arrived in the English-Canadian town of Drummondville by the 1840's, and the dolls eventually would have been passed down to Ms. Chase, from whom Elie Nadelman likely acquired the set for his Museum of Folk and Peasant Arts.
This object was once part of the folk art collection of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), the avant-garde sculptor. From 1924 to 1934, Nadelman's collection was displayed in his Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Historical Society purchased Nadelman's entire collection in 1937.
Purchased from Elie Nadelman
The Folk Art Collection of Elie Nadelman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
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New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024