Our collection in the Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel (Toy Worlds Museum Basle) features dolls from the heyday of doll manufacture between around 1870 and 1920. Artistic creations from almost every famous manufacturer, especially from the major strongholds in Germany and France, can be admired in the exhibition.
Dolls were not always intended as playthings. The first dolls served as cult or healing objects and were made of straw, clay, wood, plant fibres or bronze. The doll has had its modern-day meaning and been commercially manufactured since the 15th century. Germany is considered to be its cradle. From 1820 to 1930, the Thuringian Forest was home to a thriving toy and doll industry. The factories based in Sonneberg and Waltershausen led the world in their production. Initially, the dolls’ heads were made of wood, wax or papier mâché and later of porcelain or its more sophisticated variant, biscuit porcelain.
Among the dolls in our extensive museum collection are some from the first major German manufacturers J.D. Kestner, Simon & Halbig and Armand Marseille. Also to be found in the exhibition are the artist-designed character dolls from Kämmer & Reinhardt as well as the Heubach brothers, who enjoyed great success after 1900. Evidence that doll production was also very well developed in France at this time is provided by rarities from the Emile Jumeau and Casimir Bru Jeune companies. A number of exhibits from Japan provide an insight into the doll scene in the land of the rising sun.
Perfection in miniature
The miniatures tell real or fictitious stories of various kinds with impressive attention to detail and are constructed in a 1:12 scale. It is with this contemporary spin on the art of the dollhouse that the Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel fosters the art of modern dollhouse construction.