Doll News Summer 2020 - 126

Revisiting the
Ilse Ludecke Dolls
O

By Linda Holderbaum
Dolls are from the author's collection unless otherwise noted.

ne of the wonderful things about doll collecting is when additional information or dolls
surface on a subject you are interested in! This is particularly exciting when you think your
resources have been exhausted. An excellent resource article "Frau Ilse Ludecke, The Doll
Artist of Schwetzingen" written by Jean Grout was included in the fall 2011 issue of DOLL NEWS. The
following are more dolls that have surfaced that add to the scope and tremendous talent of this artist.
Born in 1906 in Hamburg, Germany, Ilse traveled and studied in France, Italy and Switzerland. She
had a great interest in folklore and local customs. This interest led her to start making cloth dolls in
regional costumes. But history often changes our lives, as it is certainly has done to all of us this year
and World War II came along and changed her situation.
In the late 1940s Ilse found herself as a craft instructor for the American Red Cross at a US Army
Hospital in Heidelberg. One of the workers saw a cloth Bavarian boy she had constructed and asked
to purchase one, which led to more orders and became the foundation for her business. She made all
the cloth dolls herself, from the base to the hair. According to information in Grout's article the dolls
were "100% Ilse creations. Ilse created all the doll prototypes, including all the clothing, and did all
the embroidery herself." She did have help from her mother, her sister Sophie and other local people.
She was apparently a stickler for detail and would not produce a doll unless she could get authentic
material. The dolls started out at 17-inches in height but by the 1950s they were measured at 13-inches.
By the mid1950s her dolls were marketed and sold through the Chicago-based Marshall Field &
Company with approximately 50 different styles available. The majority of the sales of her dolls were
handled through her family home in Germany however.
It is mentioned in the Grout article that a catalog of her dolls was available in 1968 which included
136 different dolls and that she also made other items such as bun warmers, tea cozies and bed dolls.
Apparently, Ilse was giving tours of her home and her dolls into the 1980s (and may have still been
producing the dolls at this time). Ilse passed away in
Germany in 2004, apparently having fallen on hard times.
All records of her doll business were lost. But at least she
still lives on through her wonderful creations.
Ilse rarely did dolls of specific personalities so "HRH the
Queen" depicting Queen Elizabeth is very hard to find.
From the collection of Rosemary Deal.
The cover of the booklet that Ilse included with almost all
of her dolls. Flowers are drawn in ink and hand colored.
The booklet itself tells briefly about the coronation and
has a detailed description of what the queen wore on
that day on June 2, 1953. The back of the booklet reads
"Coronation Dress."

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