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Keeping The Tradition of French Dollmaking Alive
The Mundia Collection of Idyllis

At Toy Fair in New York, I always spend the first two days visiting well-known doll companies that I am familiar with so I can quickly share information on popular new doll releases with About.com readers.  Those two days fly by in a flurry of appointments and photography.  But, then, finally, I get to the third day of Toy Fair--my favorite day--when I don't have any appointments and I can relax, walk the floor, and discover doll companies that are new to me.  That is how the Mundia Collection of dolls by Idyllis ("Mundia") first caught my attention. 

French-Made Porcelain Dolls 

The first thing that I noticed about the Mundia dolls is that they have an ethereal look and feel--the dolls have very translucent skin, and detailed, almost ultra-feminine costumes.  The second thing I noticed about the dolls was that they were made in France; something that is quite unusual in the dollmaking industry today.  In the late 1800s, France ruled the world of dollmaking--their fashion dolls and later bebe dolls by firms such as Jumeau and Bru are some of the most prized dolls in the world.  However, the end of the 1890s saw the beginning of the demise of the French dollmaking industry as France handed the porcelain dollmaking baton to Germany (the dollmaking baton was later passed on to the United States...but that is a topic for another article...).  Throughout most of the 1900s on to this day, very few porcelain dolls have been produced in France that have been intended for worldwide distribution. 

Which is why, as I was saying, I stopped dead in my tracks at Toy Fair when I saw the beautiful French-made porcelain dolls by Mundia.  

The Start of Mundia

The Mundia company was founded by Gerard Hadijan in 1949.  In the beginning, the company focused on the making of children's toys.  Later, his wife Marita became interested in dollmaking.  Their first efforts were antique reproduction porcelain dolls, costumed by Marita, whose own grandmother worked for a Parisian haute-couture house at the turn of the last century.   Marita combined her love of haute-couture with her love of antique dolls, and wanted to create dolls that were affordable by many more people than could afford the actual antique dolls.  This is why Marita started her dollmaking with antique reproductions.  The Mundia line of dolls, as it exists today, has been in production for over 20 years, and today, Christine and Cécile, the children of Gerard and Marita have become noted dollmakers and the creative force behind Mundia.  Today, the line-up of dolls includes original dolls made by many artists as well as antique reproduction dolls. 

As an antique doll collector, however, I am puzzled by one aspect of the Mundia Collection reproductions of Jumeau dolls--most of their reproductions tend to have open mouths.  As any collector of antique porcelain dolls, German or French can tell you, it is the dolls with the closed mouths that are most  prized and highly sought after--these are the dolls that most reproduction artists tend to make.  I don't know why Mundia has chosen to make mostly open-mouth Jumeau reproductions; perhaps it is an artistic decision--perhaps Christine and Cécile simply prefer them to the closed-mouth Jumeaus, or perhaps open-mouth dolls sell better in Europe than they do in the United States.  

Luxurious Costuming; Fine Porcelain; Lumicire

In the tradition of the French dollmakers that went before them, Christine and Cécile pay great attention to the costumes for the Mundia dolls.  They employ a head dressmaker from a haute-couture Parisian fashion house who oversees every detail of the construction of the doll costumes.  Christine and Cécile choose the fabrics and lace for their creations in collaboration with French suppliers of fabrics used in haute couture, including Julien Faure (experienced in 125 years of jacquard technique), André Laude (the Laude family has been making lace for more than a 120 years) and Solstiss who supplies Calais lace.  However, costuming is only part of the process--to make a porcelain doll, especially a doll in the great French tradition of dollmaking, requires knowledge of sculpting, painting, hairdressing, shoemaking, and much more.  The multiple-step porcelain part of the dollmaking process is overseen by French ceramist Pierre Durdilly who appears in the book called “Poupées. Un art contemporain: Les artistes français” (Dolls: a contemporary art: French Artists) by noted doll historian François Theimer and Michel Voinier.  All of this, together, has created the only current French brand of modern collectible bisque (or "biscuit," according to the Mundia catalog) dolls.  Each year, a brand new collection of ten or more dolls are released, each made in a limited edition of 1,000 dolls or less.  And, new to the line are collector dolls that are not made of bisque, but are made of a substance called "Lumicire" which seems to be a type of resin composite.

On the Horizon for Mundia in 2002

The company has many plans for expansion in 2002.  First, Mundia Collection will launch a collector's club, complete with a quarterly magazine and an exclusive doll available only to club members.  Second, a book about the Mundia Collection is planned (at press time, I'm not yet sure if this book will be published in English as well as in French).  A new web site, www.mundiacollection.com is planned, although it is not yet operational.  Finally, as of 2002, dolls from the Mundia Collection can be purchased in the United States, Europe, Japan, Australia, Central America and Asia, making the Mundia Collection by Idyllis truly a French company producing dolls for a worldwide audience. 

I think that all doll collectors can agree that it is nice to have a French manufacturer of porcelain dolls back on the dollmaking scene!

Don't miss our Mundia Collection Doll Photo Gallery!

Some sites with Mundia dolls for sale and information on Mundia dolls: 

Treasured Dolls - The Mundia Collection

Classic Collection Dolls

Samantha's Dolls

Emily's Gifts - French Porcelain Dolls by Mundia


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Article, Graphics Copyright © 2001 Denise Van Patten

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