On Sunday I went to the flea market in the Piazza dei Ciompi. I was looking for what passes for lares et penates in contemporary Italy and I was not disappointed.
In case you’re wondering, these were the household gods of the Ancient Romans. The omnivorous and voracious Victorian collector, Henry Willett, described homely domestic ornaments as a ‘kind of unconscious survival’ of these personal and private little gods.
Of course there were madonnas aplenty.
I noticed that some of them seemed to have had discreet eyeliner and eyebrow threading. I confess to coveting one of these simpering lovelies.
Like this one.
And this one. And some of the infant figures and cherubs do not bear close examination.
I am as unclear what the pink drapery is hiding as I am about what’s lurking under these cunningly placed teddies.
And moving on from religious images to mammets ( a doll or puppet; a lifeless figure, an effigy – according to Wikipedia) – they were there in spades.
This one appealed to me; s/he appears to be sunbathing nude in a black hole.
And this ballerina is dancing blithely while right in front of her a tiny girl is being crucified on a porcelain barrel and a nasty looking mannikin is doing something unpleasant to a chanter.
And a pink porcelain corps de ballet kneels near a giantess. Talk about dainty rogues in porcelain.
But disquieting as the mammets may be they are as nothing compared to the mawkins – which I have grown up thinking to be a doll that you stick pins in (my husband disagrees).
Ok – this one, ‘armless enough, I suppose.
But this one – now I know why I have never played with dollies. That basilisk stare could kill at fifty paces. And is she trying to tip her hat invitingly? Because, if so, it isn’t working for me.
Chuckie’s evil younger sister.
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise – blue eyeliner, nail varnish and a brand spanking new knitted layette.
Porky boy here is possibly my least favourite.
But it’s hard to choose given the bewildering variety.
I think I’ll just thwream and thwream until I’m thick.