The doll on the bed

In our homes, especially in the past, there were some objects whose arrangement and presence were a symbol of social affirmation or that communicated certain personal values or values linked to the society in which one lived to those who entered the house. Some objects were given a sort of cult. This is the case with the doll on the bed.


 This cult of the doll first spreads in the Polistena area. The women placed a doll on the double bed, placed between the two pillows, with their eyes turned towards the door. They were dolls with huge lace dresses, flowing hair and well styled, big eyes, they were mostly porcelain and were part of the trousseau. They were a gift for the bride and represented the bride on the one hand and motherhood on the other. They were often won at raffles or bought from street vendors, given as gifts by friends, mother or mother-in-law, but never by husband.


The doll placed in the room could change clothes when the blankets and curtains of the room were changed, it was a symbol of female reproduction, often it was given to young brides as a wish for a fruitful marriage or to those women who had only had male children and were anxiously awaiting a daughter.

Symbol of wealth.

Hence the custom of the doll on the bed soon spread throughout Italy, becoming a habit for many women. At the time the room was "the female kingdom" where the woman imposed her own order and taste. It became a symbol of wealth and later an emblem of the consumer culture. Besides being a good luck charm it was also a prestigious asset. The doll was just a distinction between social classes. In fact, these dolls were very expensive and could only be purchased by wealthy families who needed to prove their social rank. The peasants who often lived in the shacks could not afford this luxury and besides, they didn't even have the houses to embellish with this magnificent doll.

Symbol of female pseudo emancipation.

Especially in Calabria the doll was the symbol of a queen woman who created her own order and kingdom in the house. It was not the housewife but, just like the doll, an emancipated woman at least outwardly in fact the doll resembled a lady and even a child, she was made up, dressed in a sumptuous way and with her hair styled. This in contrast to the outside world, in fact, the woman was a queen and had a strong identity especially inside the house. In the 60s, with economic well-being, everyone began to be able to afford the doll on the bed and over time this tradition gradually faded without ever completely disappearing.

My point of view.


This tradition has always disturbed me, I have never approved certain cages in which the woman was often relegated even if often unaware. I've been a feminist since I was a child. Even though I became a dollmaker, I never particularly liked that kind of doll, they were too stereotyped and with a look that I thought empty.

Now I like to rediscover and narrate the traditions that, despite everything, have led us to be what we are.


Tell me your point of view below or on Facebook.


  • Social space, female space: the doll on the bed in the Polistena area by Paola Elisabetta Simeoni (La ricerca folklorica)

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Commenti: 1
  • #1

    Katy Poenaru (sabato, 27 febbraio 2021 17:53)

    I remember this tradition in my childhood too, despite here being already a society where women were in most aspects equal to men (communist country ;) ). These dolls were already a sort of decorating objects in the households, not always so fancy, but mostly big/bigger dolls sitting on the sofa. My Grandma used to sew new dresses to them and I loved to change their clothes. Art dolls were extremely rare, unaffordable , sold maybe in antiquity stores. The dolls on the bed were looking like big girls, with long, curly hair. You cannot find them anymore and the doll on the bed is a forgotten tradition in Romania too.

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