The Powerhouse acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the ancestral homelands upon which our museums are situated. We respect their Elders, past, present and future and recognise their continuous connection to Country.
H8140-8 Bride doll (1 of 8), porcelain / wax / cotton / silk / wool / lace / paint / horsehair, probably made by Pierotti, England, c. 1880. Click to enlarge.

Bride doll with wax face and porcelain arms and legs

Probably made
This fashionably dressed bride doll with wax head, porcelain limbs and stuffed cotton torso provides an insight into the role of women in the nineteenth century, the rise of the middle class and changing attitudes towards childhood. The doll wears a white wedding dress in the style fashionable for well-off women of the 1880s. White had become increasingly popular for bridal wear after the wedding of Queen Victoria in 1840.

Bride dolls were often given to young girls during the nineteenth …

This object is part of


Object No.


Object Statement

Bride doll (1 of 8), porcelain / wax / cotton / silk / wool / lace / paint / horsehair, probably made by Pierotti, England, c. 1880

Physical Description

Porcelain bride doll with pink-toned wax face, wearing fabric and lace bridal dress. Black boots are painted on.

The doll has inset blue eyes, blue bead drop earrings and short blond hair which adheres to her head. Horsehair padded body with plaster arms and legs.

The jacket is of cream silk satin and has a fitted bodice with 8 small white buttons down the centre front opening. There is a fabric flower corsage at the neck, short puff sdleeves, deep lace trim at sleeves around the hem and neck.

The skirt is cream silk satin with a bustle and train, gathered skirt with atached overskirt with gathered lace frill. Main skirt fully overlaid with tiered cream laxe, train has 3 tiers of heavy cotton lace frill and two pleated satin frills. it is fully lined with glazed cotton calico.

There are three petticoats: a half slip gathered at the waist of cotton poplin with two tucks around the hem and cotton broderie anglaise trim, knee length stiffened cotton with padded bust roll, half slip of crocheted pink wool with cream trim at hem, patched with small pink cotton squares.

The drawers are of fine cotton, knee length with one tuck at the hem and cotton broderie anglaise trim.



730 mm


520 mm


500 mm



This doll was probably made by the Pierotti family doll-making company in England in about 1880. The Pierotti family is the only well-documented doll-making family of the era.

The Pierottis, from Volterra in the north of Italy, appear to have been a wealthy family that owned vineyards and traded wine. Giovanni Stefano Pierotti, born in 1730, probably came to England on business. He is documented as having married an Englishwoman in Reading in 1750. His son, Domenico, born in Italy, moved to England as a child to live with his aunt. From her, he learnt the trade of making wax covered paper-mache objects. Records show that he was selling dolls at the Pantheon Bazaar from 1793. Domenico's ninth child, Anericho Cephas became a wax portrait modeller and is also believed to have made high quality wax dolls. It was one of Anerico's children, Henry Pierotti, who made the name famous by winning an award at the 1849 London exhibition and opening a shop in the mid 1800s in Oxford St, selling wax dolls, decorative display figures and figures for tailors and dressmakers. Family tradition has it that many of the dolls were modelled on the family's children.

Making such dolls could be a health hazard, as indicated by a descendant of the family, Irene Pierotti, in an article in 'Country Life'. She comments that her grandfather died from poisoning from the lead that was used to colour the wax. Upon his death, her grandmother and five of her children continued the business, selling dolls in London shops such as Morrells, Mortlocks and Hamleys. The family's doll-making tools were donated to the Rottingdean Museum in Sussex and the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood after the death of the family's last doll-maker in 1935.

The process of making the dolls involved pouring warm, molten wax into a cast. Colour was introduced to the wax by adding carmine and white lead. After removing the wax head from the mould, the marks were smoothed over, eye holes were cut and glass eyes inserted and fixed in place with liquid wax. Real human hair was implanted by inserting a heated needle or knife, although by around 1845, mohair, which is similar to human hair, was often a substitute.This process of insertion caused a scar on the wax, which was removed by smoothing over with a warm roller. It is thought that this must have been a particularly slow process, with each head requiring at least a full day's work. Although craftspeople were required to finish off the doll's hair and features, some elements of wax doll production were done in bulk. A row of heads might be poured together, or piles of body parts might be made at the one time. Dolls like this one had cloth bodies and very short, porcelain arms and legs. The parts of the limbs that were likely to be exposed were made of porcelain, whereas the covered portions, such as the tops of the limbs, were made from cotton and stuffed with sawdust or kapok.

The dolls were often dressed in clothes of very high quality, as is the case with this doll. Such costumes were usually made by hand, even after the invention of the sewing machine.

Information from: Coleman, Dorothy S, Elizabeth A and Evelyn J, 'The Collector's Encyclopaedia of Dolls', London, Robert Hale and Company, 1970.
Hillier, Mary, 'The History of Wax Dolls', London, Souvenir Press, 1985
King, Constance E, 'Antique Toys and Dolls', London, Cassell Ltd, 1979
King, Constance, "Dolls and Doll's Houses, London, Chancellor Press, 1996



Donated by Mrs W. Brett, 21 Junction Rd, Wahroonga, Sydney, 9/6/67.

On display Ist Powerhouse Exhbition Stage 1, September '81 - September, '82. Decorative Arts area.

Cite this Object


Bride doll with wax face and porcelain arms and legs 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 29 July 2021, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Bride doll with wax face and porcelain arms and legs |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=29 July 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}