Angera Rocca – Museum of Dolls and Automatons

Angera Rocca Museum of Dolls and Children’s clothes

Since 1988, the Rocca Borromeo has housed the Doll Museum, which is displayed in the twelve rooms of the Viscontea and Borromea wings. It is an extraordinary collection of dolls, toys, books, dolls’ furniture and table and board games which, due to the over 1,000 pieces displayed, constitutes one of the most important museums of its kind in Europe. There are wooden dolls from the eighteenth century, French closed-mouth dolls, German dolls, and “bob Caracteres” made of wax, papier-machè, porcelain, fabric, celluloid, and plastic, illustrate the historical and cultural evolution of this quite extraordinary object, which has always been an important protagonist of childhood.

A new section houses an exceptional collection of fully functioning French automatons. The museum has well-documented didactic information, which accompanies visitors on a fascinating journey through time to discover the fundamental gift of play.rocca2

To complete the museum, a section dedicated to children’s clothes, which bears witness to the evolution of taste in children’s fashion from the eighteenth century up until the 1950’s.

Approximately two hundred items of clothing and accessories are displayed, which are representative due to their elegance and sartorial quality.

Lavish christening gowns, sumptuous ball gowns with precious “white on white” embroidery, and dresses and suits for everyday use and for special occasions recreate under the visitor’s eyes, the image of a refined childhood that was luxurious and elegant.

“…but tell me what kinds of doll you prefer? Small dolls or big dolls? Baby dolls or dolls dressed like grown ups? Cloth dolls, wooden dolls or…” “Dolls for loving, just dolls to love!”
(Bettina Ehrlich, Dolls, 1962)rocca_autom_2

Angera Rocca Museum of Automatons

The Doll and Children’s Clothes Museum is, to this day, one of the most important exhibition areas in Europe dedicated to dolls. As well as the prestigious items already exhibited, in June 2002 a new section was opened, dedicated to French and German automatons dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The exhibits, which are true mechanical wonders and date from between 1870 and 1920, come from the Petit Musèe du Costume in Tours, France and once formed part of the famous collection belonging to Robert and Gisèle Peschè.

The collection now belongs to the Borromeo family and is composed not only of automatons but also a large number of dolls, porcelain and ceramics and books and other rare publications.

This material will soon all be put on display in the historic rooms of the Rocca Borromeo in Angera.

The automatons exhibited are masterpieces born of the genius of master watchmakers and the creativity of sculptors and artisans who modelled the faces and sewed the elegant costumes. The automatons will not fail to amaze you with their slow and rhythmic movements, accompanied by their music boxes playing famous arias often taken from operatic or popular repertory.

Magical sound and light effects mark the innovative layout of the exhibition and videos are projected, allowing visitors to see the pieces in movement whilst listening to their music boxes. The exhibits are displayed in one of three thematic sections, which are Music, the Circus and Vices and Virtues.

There is plenty of historical and educational information available to support the exhibit, consisting of period material such as sales catalogues and manufacturer’s publicity, which complete this fantastic journey through a world that was the precursor of modern technology.

“All things are artificial because nature is the art of God.”
(Thomas Browne, Of Dreams, “Religio Medici” – 1642).

In Angera you can also visit the Municipal Museum of Archeology, with significant remains of ancient archeological findings in Arona.

How to get there

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