Founded in Turin, Italy in 1919 by Enrico and Elana Konig Scavini (Madame Lenci), the Lenci Company was one of the doll manufacturers offering superb quality dolls. The dolls that were made between the 1920’s and 1930’s are the most sought after by doll collectors. The dolls made during the early years of the company’s existence were made of pressed felt and its facial features were oil-painted. The doll’s felt ears were separately sewn on the doll’s swivel head. The dolls were also jointed on the hips and shoulder. Some of the dolls either had rooted hair on mohair wigs and their eyes were side-glancing.
The Lenci dolls’ elegant garments were of fabric which were mostly organdy and felt. The dolls made later were already wearing cotton, taffeta, and rayon fabrics. Some of the Lenci dolls that were created early on in its 83 years of existence were carrying accessories like a broom or carved wooden things or animals. However, the later batches were already less accessorized and people have found it to be made of lesser quality materials.
Around 1927, other doll makers had started imitating the Lenci dolls especially makers from Turin, Florence, Germany, England, and France. The knock-offs were much cheaper and caused some issues for the company due to the competition. To counteract this, the Lenci Company started to produce ceramic figurines. There was also an oriental doll series that was introduced by Lenci around 1925 to 1927. Aside from the felt and fabric materials, Lenci also manufactured wooden bodied dolls with composition doll heads as well as porcelain figurines and dolls.
Around the 1930’s, the company was not able to cope up with some problems in their finances. The company entered into a partnership to mitigate their huge debt. However, the new owners fully took over the company after 1937 wherein Madame Lenci stayed with the company only as an artistic director. On December 1940, Madame Lenci left company for good and around this time the quality of the dolls were already far from the exquisite craftsmanship of the early dolls. The company had already marketed these new dolls under the name Ars Lenci.
Perhaps one of the most notable creations Madame Lenci made was her last doll design called the Gioia doll which she made in 1939. The washable baby doll was made of light fabric and felt. Its body and limbs were hollow and were done with a series of paint layers on a fabric material. Some notable porcelain figurines they had created were the porcelain Disney characters In the 1950’s such as Dumbo, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Bambi. However, these dolls did not have Disney’s copyright and they only had the marking “Lenci”. Thus today, most collectors would really have preference for dolls originally made by the Lenci Company during Madame Lenci’s stay which would be from the early 1920’s to 1939.
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