Lenci Dolls are felt dolls produced by the Italian manufacturer The Lenci Company.
It was an age where porcelain dolls were the norm when Elena Scavini created dolls made of felt as an answer to the need for dolls that can be truly played with. However, since Elena’s creations were always pricey, only the same girls who could afford the porcelain dolls, could have afforded her Lenci dolls. Elena and her spouse established the doll-making company in 1919 and called it the “Lenci Company”. “Lenci” was a nickname of Elena and a contraction of her German name “Helenchen”.
The craftsmanship of Madame Lenci was not something that was bred out of confinement. She enhanced her own doll-making skills by opening her workshops to other artists. In Germany where she spent a Bohemian stage, artists and sculptors such as Chessa, Dudovich, Formica, Riva, Sandro Vacchetti, and Sturani have all lent their geniuses for the dolls of Madame Lenci.
Madame Lenci sold the company to its director, Garella in1939 and for the years that followed, he produced Lenci dolls. Plastic Lenci dolls were manufactured in the 1950s and they were decidedly not as aesthetically satisfying. The 1970s and 1980s saw a revival of the old models; however, the company suffered internal problems and eventually closed shop in 2001.
Collecting Lenci Dolls
In comparison to dolls of other makers, Lenci dolls are relatively scarce and this is reflected on the number of auctions that can be found online.
In the beginning, the Lenci dolls were only referred to by the number of the series. These early creations of the 1920s and 1930s were Boudoir dolls. Later on, they came to be known by particular names. Some dolls can be identified by their signature on their foot although most would be more known to collectors by their appearance. There are books and online resources available for collectors to look up.
In the 1980s, 61 dolls of the original Elena Scavini and other artists’ collaboration were remade. These are collector desirables and are available in various looks.
The value of the dolls would depend much on their condition. As they are made of felt, they could not be washed nor exposed to temperature extremes of the climate. Sunlight would make the colors fade and mold can ruin the material.
The most sought-after of the Lenci dolls are the original Elena Scavini creations- Boudoir and character dolls that could fetch from five hundred to thousands of dollars. Because of their age, it is expected that these dolls would show some imperfections such as having moth holes or some missing body parts.
For more perfect dolls, the collector could turn to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s remake. Aside from looking clean and attractive, they come with a certificate of authenticity.
In the 1950s, a “washable” type of Lencis were produced. They’re made of felt but a type of lacquer was applied so that they can come in contact with water. The “prosperity doll” with its cute baby face is one of the most sought by collectors.
The Lenci dolls that were manufactured in the ‘90s are different from Lenci dolls earlier made in that although their head and torsos are made of felt, their bodies are made of cotton.
Notable auction sales
McMasters Harris Auction Co., an auction house based out of Ohio, USA, sold in July of 2007 a 16 inch Lenci boy doll for a handsome price of $10, 750. The doll was generally in good condition and had no moth damage.
An excellently preserved Lenci Rudolph Valentino doll was bought in an auction organized by New York-based Philip Weiss Auctions for $10,500 in 2006. The doll except for a head dress tie, still had all its original accessories and parts intact.
At eBay, the highest price paid was $ 816 for a boy doll of the 300 series made in the ‘30s. Among the recent Lenci dolls being auctioned online is a 1930 Italian-cloth “Mara” salon doll that’s being bid out for at least $ 800 but estimated to be worth between $ 1,200-1,800.