Regal line of royal dolls Art: Small wonders' coronation at the BMA.

October 20, 1997|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Every king and queen of England since 1066 waits to greet you at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and they're all dressed up for the occasion.

They form the show "Majesty in Miniature," and they're dolls representing English royalty from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II. This collection of 102 dolls, made between 1937 and 1957 for Liberty & Co. of London, was assembled by Baltimorean Elsie Clark Krug (1888-1982). A graduate of Goucher College and one-time missionary in China, Krug ran a Baltimore gift shop specializing in dolls during the period when the royal dolls were made. She was their American importer and had customers nationwide.

Designed to be affordable, the dolls were made by elderly British women working in their homes and using primarily cotton and wool felt. Some of the costumes were based on conjecture, but many were taken from portraits.

The dolls have been on deposit at the BMA since a 1964 show there and were recently donated to the museum by Krug's daughter.

The show, mounted in conjunction with the museum's exhibit of works from London's Victoria and Albert Museum, has a good deal of color and charm, and here and there the presentations hint at the monarchs' reputed qualities.

Richard I (ruled 1189-1199), known as Richard the Lionheart for his valor, is here in his red tunic emblazoned with gold lions. Nearby stands Richard III (1483-1485), portrayed as a vile murderer by Shakespeare (though some disagree), not showing his hunchback but dressed mostly in black. Henry VIII (1509-1547), almost as wide as he is tall and dressed in rich red and white, stands flanked by his six wives, each in a different costume. Victoria (1837-1901) and Albert look properly upright, she in a white gown under a voluminous gold cape and he in black with sashes of intense blue and red.

The current queen, Elizabeth II (1952- ), gets the most lavish display. Wearing her white coronation gown and long purple train, she stands flanked by 20 dolls representing those who took part in the 1953 coronation -- everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury down to royal footmen. The most dramatic of all these figures is the Dean of Westminster, in the sweeping red and gold cape that billows out around him. Wearing that cape, anybody could make a splash.

Royal dolls

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; through Jan. 18

Admission: $6; $4 seniors and students; free for 18 and under

Call: 410-396-7100

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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