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Lenci Felt Dolls

Sunday, July 26, 2009 @ 11:07 AM Karen Hood

A Brief History of Lenci

In 1919, Elena Scavini opened up her little business making felt dolls, and her process of manufacturing pressed felt faces became a new way of making dolls. In a world where little girls could not play with their porcelain dolls, the Lenci became very desirable. Unfortunately, Lencis were always extremely expensive, and only those girls who were fortunate to own expensive porcelain dolls, ended up owning the Lencis. Soon, lots of wonderful sculptors and artists joined Elena and her husband and they started this magnificent company called Lenci.

This original E. Scavini dolls of the 20’s and 30s were numbered: the 109, 111, 300 series, etc. These were the original early Boudoir dolls, children dolls and character dolls. After a while, the Lenci dolls came with their specific names. Some of the early dolls are signed on their foot, but are more recognizable to the collector by their look.

Elena Scavini’s Life and Her Advice to Her Daughter Anili

Elena Scavini was born in 1886, and as a young girl led a very interesting life. She left home at 14 with her sister to join a circus. Later, she lived in Germany were she became a photographer. She met her husband in her late 20’s. While her husband fought in World War I, Elena became pregnant and lost her first child. Her first dolls were made at that time. Her dolls were taken to the United States some time later, and were welcomed as gorgeous and unique. They were truly a work of art and were sought out in the States by the the rich and famous. Elena sold the Lenci company to her director, Garella, and left the company in 1939. She had two children Anili and Carlo. When her daughter, Anili decided to create her own dolls, Elena guided her and told her to make sure that her doll company was small. Elena Scavini died in 1974.

The Garella Family Takes Over

In the 1940’s, the company was purchased by the director of the company, and for many years he continued manufacturing dolls in the Lenci style. Unfortunately during the 50’s, some Lencis were made out of plastic, and were not the most beautiful dolls. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, there was a resurgence of some of the original models. From the original designs of E. Scavini and group of artists, 61 models of Lenci were remade in a limited run of 999 copies per model. These dolls are much sought after by the Lenci collector. They are most precious and have an array of different looks. Please ask questions of the seller with regards to the condition of these dolls. Some are in marvelous condition, but some have been stored in garages, where mold has ruined many a doll. In the 90’s, Garella’s son and two daughters took over the company, but they were not able to maintain the Lenci tradition, and closed the company in 2001.

Prosperity Doll

This particular Lenci doll was made in the 50s. A real collector’s dream, this doll is made of felt but preserved with some type of lacquer, so that this doll is waterproof. The Prosperity doll can still be found in Ebay auctions, and it is one of the most sought-after dolls of the Lenci collector.

Collecting Lenci Dolls Today

Today, these dolls are scarce. When you compare a site full of Madame Alexanders mounting to over 5,000, and you go to a Lenci site, and in a good week you find 106 dolls, you sigh with relief and say to yourself, “This is my lucky week! I might get the Lenci of my dreams.” Great resources for the new Lenci collector are available through various books, plus an informative Lenci site here.

A Tip On Caring for a Lenci or any Felt Doll

Remember, these dolls are made out of felt, and therefore cannot come in contact with water, or left in extreme temperatures. They should be displayed properly and kept away from direct sun, as the colors will fade.

Types of Lencis

Most wanted Lencis are the original E. Scavini children series, boudoir dolls, and character dolls. These dolls range from five hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Lenci lovers want these dolls, even with moth holes, hair missing, and moth bitten clothes, legs, etc… The diehard Lenci collector finds these dolls the most exciting. And they are beautiful indeed, but for the doll collector that wants a clean, beautiful looking doll without damage you should turn to:

1978 to 1983 dolls. These are the original remakes. Most of these dolls are well taken care of, come with their certificate of authenticity, have their original tags, and beautiful boxes. Beware of sellers that don’t know much about Lencis: if they are not collectors or don’t know much about them, you are taking a chance that you are either not buying a Lenci, or that the Lenci is in poor condition. Please ask the buyer many questions, such as when the doll was made, does it come with Certificate of Authenticity (preferably parchment), does it come with a box, does it have any holes, and/or imperfections.

The modern Lenci was manufactured in the 1990s, and some of these dolls are not all felt. The original Lencis from the 20s and 30s had a hollow torso body and movable arms and legs, and two fingers stitched together (that is still the trademark of the Lenci). In the 1990s some of the dolls were made out of felt arms, legs, and head, but their bodies were made out of cotton. These dolls have a more modern look to them, their hair is sometimes synthetic, not mohair or real hair as the older Lencis. Their clothes are not felt, like the remakes, but cloth. These dolls are great to display, but be aware that they are chubbier-looking then the other Lencis, and also less valuable. These dolls were sold at Home Shopping networks, therefore loosing the uniqueness of the old all-felt, original-style Lenci.

Lencis come in all sizes. Some are composition, some are all felt, and as described above they come in different styles depending on the time they were made. Many other Italian manufacturers, as well as other European makers tried to make dolls appear to be Lencis, but they are not. All Lencis have a number stamped to the back of their head, stiched neck, or fingers that are stitched together. Not all Lencis are side glancing, many of the modern ones look straight at you. Some of the remakes done in the 90s look slightly different from the remakes of the late 70s and early 80s.

Bidders beware of individuals who call their dolls Lenci Type or Lenci Like. these are not Lencis, therefore they are less valuable and not worth pursuing.

There are other dolls that are made out of felt that are absolutely incredible. I recommend Maggie Iacono dolls, John Wright dolls, and Debbie Richmond dolls.

Happy hunting for your favorite felt doll!

Source: Ebay Buying Guide

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