Friday, March 5, 2010

Black Dolls from Around the World - Brazil

From old to new, dolls from Brazil are quite interesting, particularly the dark skinned dolls.  Cloth dolls made in Bahia, Brazil that date back to the early 1900s rank high among the most interesting older dark skinned Brazilian-made dolls.  I became familiar with the Bahia cloth dolls through a fellow collector who shared several images of her collection with me for inclusion in my book.  The images and description are included below:

Brazilian (Bahia) Rag Dolls, 1900s-1950s

Material: Cotton muslin
Height: 11 to 20in/27.94 to 50.8cm
Hair /Eyes/Mouth: None/embroidered eyes, nose, mouth and/or teeth
Clothing: Cotton, linen skirts with lace trim, linen slips, cloth shoes sewn to feet. Three dolls have sashes made of satin, silk-like material and cotton plaid. Jewelry is made of colored pieces of tin foil, glass and metal beads, metal chain for necklaces.
Other: These dolls came with fingernails made of quills, celluloid, or in some cases real human nails. Male dolls were also made. Some of the dolls still have remnants of their fingernails. Only one doll in this group has all 10 (tall doll on left). While not fully anatomically correct, these dolls have anatomical details and are tightly stuffed. Dolls like these date back to the late 19th Century. Similar dolls were also from Haiti. Only one doll (2nd doll from left) has a doll-shaped label that reads “Bahia.”
Value: $175-500

Close up of a Bahia doll -- note the embroidered features.

Quills were used for this doll's fingernails.

All Brazilian Bahia doll photograhs courtesy of Bonnie Lewis

The reader is now referred to an older post that showcases four dolls from the collection of Rossano Gomes of Brazil. Click here to access.



  1. Wow, such detail and creativity with the quills for fingernails.

  2. I still have my Bahia Doll that my father brought home to me from a long business trip to Brazil in the 1950's. She is actually two ladies, a black skinned lady with beautiful details and when you turn her over she is a brown skinned lady. She carries a woven basket; both ladies wear a charm at the back of their neck which I believe my Dad said was called a "figa". I wondered what the name of the doll type was; a house guest from Turkey noticed it right away. Thanks for the information. Do these dolls also reverse to another doll?

  3. It sounds like your Bahia doll may be a Topsy Turvey (Topsy Turvey). I would love to see a photo of both sides.


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