Dolls for Victoria (from the private collection of Alexander Gulko)

The collector’s life is the mirror of his or her individuality in many respects. The composition and formation of the collection show development and change of tastes of its owner, increasing level of his or her education. Every collection is formed and exists particularly. Its completeness and artistic value depend on the collector’s character and his or her aesthetic tastes in many respects. To collect and to preserve the heritage of the past centuries, not to let it be lost – it is a job which requires great devotion. Such people command particular respect.

Alexander Gulko was born in the Sheksna settlement of the Vologda region on May 19, 1963. He graduated from Vologda Polytechnic Institute in 1985 as a civil engineer. But it happened that collecting that he was keen on became his life-work. The most important is that the collector does it in a competent way, cooperating with professional restorers. His collection contains absolutely various articles which are always restored. It is interesting to display them in the museum expositions. Alexander Gulko participated in many exhibitions: “Russia, Rus’, Guard yourself” (Cherepovets, 2003); “The Image of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker” (Vologda, 2004); “Masterpieces of Old Russian Painting” (Moscow, 2009); the action “Night in the Museum” (Vologda, 2009), “Her Majesty the Doll” (Vologda, 2009); “Old Russian Painting of the 15th – early 17th centuries and Folk Art of the 18th-19th centuries” (Kirillov, 2010); “Dolls for Victoria” (Cherepovets, 2012).

First Alexander Gulko started to buy beautiful dolls for his small daughter Victoria. She grew up, but his collection was still replenished and became an integral part of the family as a kind of a symbol of continuity of the father’s and the daughter’s interests.

The exhibition presented antique bisque dolls dating back to 1900-1930 and wearing dresses of the early 20th century which were manufactured in Germany both at small enterprises and large factories. Along with the German dolls, very rare dolls made in Kalisz (the capital city of the Kalisz Region in 1837-1917 which was the part of the Russian Empire) were displayed there. Folklore dolls dressed in traditional red sarafans and warm sleeveless jackets created a furore at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1892 where they were awarded the honorary diploma. The Imperial Doll Factory (the Factory of Zhuravlyov and Kocheshkov) was established in Russia in the late 19th century and produced porcelain dolls till the revolution. They were expensive, so they were kept and handed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, very few antique Russian dolls have come down to us because of the revolutionary events of 1917. One doll made at that factory in 1915-1917 could be seen at the exhibition.

Manufacture of bisque dolls in Europe began in the early 19th century and was considerably developed at the beginning of the 20th century. French and German masters undoubtedly maintained the lead among the world producers of bisque dolls. The French school was distinguished with refinement, luxury, and elegance. As for the German manufacture that had taken the lead by the early 20th century, it was notable for carefulness and practicality. The largest part of the collection of Alexander Gulko consists of German dolls. About one half of the dolls produced in the world at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries were made in Germany. One of the most famous doll manufacturers in Germany in the 1920s was Armand Marseille. He was engaged in this business for almost 50 years. His company produced various types of dolls, many of them were marked with “A.M. 390” (390 was the mold number). All Armand Marseille dolls had absolutely unique expression – tender, kind and alive. Manufacturers had their own system of markings of doll heads. Thanks to these markings, it is easier to attribute the dolls now. But for proper identification, it is necessary to study all details of the doll, because the number of the mold doesn’t give an opportunity to determine the manufacture where it was made. Only some doll companies produced not only bisque heads, but also bodies. The majority bought both heads and bodies. As a rule, doll heads were made of bisque (unglazed porcelain). This material was first used to manufacture dolls in the late 19th – early 20th century. It quickly replaced usual porcelain because it was more durable, realistic and plastic than its predecessors. Dolls usually had fixed or weighted glass eyes, later they started to make flirty eyes. Composite material which consisted of gypsum, glue, papier-mache, sawdust and shavings was applied to make doll bodies in the first third of the 20th century.

Wigs were made only of mohair or human hair. Dolls were always fashionably dressed. French dolls were especially luxurious and German dolls were more modest, but didn’t yield to them in quality and gracefulness.

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