A doll is a model of a human being, often used as a toy for girls. Dolls have traditionally been used in magic and religious rituals throughout the world, and traditional dolls made of materials such as clay and wood are found in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. The earliest documented dolls go back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. They have been made as crude, rudimentary playthings as well as elaborate art. Modern doll manufacturing has its roots in Germany, from the 15th century. With industrialization and new materials such as porcelain and plastic, dolls were increasingly mass-produced. During the 20th century, dolls became increasingly popular as collectibles.
Traditional dolls are sometimes used as children's playthings, but they may also have spiritual, magical and ritual value. There is no defined line between spiritual dolls and toys. In some cultures dolls that had been used in rituals were given to children. They were also used in children's education and as carriers of cultural heritage. In other cultures dolls were considered too laden with magical powers to allow children to play with them.
Matryoshka dolls are traditional Russian dolls, consisting of a set of hollow wooden figures that open up and nest inside each other. They typically portray traditional peasants and the first set was carved and painted in 1890. In Germany, clay dolls have been documented as far back as the 13th century, and wooden doll making from the 15th century. Beginning about the 15th century, increasingly elaborate dolls were made for Nativity scene displays, chiefly in Italy. Dolls with detailed, fashionable clothes were sold in France in the 16th century, though their bodies were often crudely constructed. The German and Dutch peg wooden dolls were cheap and simply made and were popular toys for poorer children in Europe from the 16th century. Wood continued to be the dominant material for dolls in Europe until the 19th century. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, wood was increasingly combined with other materials, such as leather, wax and porcelain and the bodies made more articulate. It is unknown when dolls' glass eyes first appeared, but brown was the dominant eye color for dolls up until the Victorian era when blue eyes became more popular, inspired by Queen Victoria. Dolls, puppets and masks allow ordinary people to state what is impossible in the real situation; In Iran for example during Qajar era, people criticised the politics and social conditions of Ahmad-Shah's reign via puppetry without any fear of punishment. According to the Islamic rules, the act of dancing in public especially for women, is a taboo. But dolls or puppets have free and independent identities and are able to do what is not feasible for the real person. Layli (Lurish doll) is a hinged dancing doll, which is popular among the Lur people of Iran. The name Layli is originated from the middle east folklore and love story, Layla and Majnun. Layli is the symbol of the beloved who is spiritually beautiful. Layli also represents and maintains a cultural tradition, which is gradually vanishing in urban life.
Black dolls have been designed to resemble dark-skinned persons varying from stereotypical to more accurate portrayals. Rag dolls made by American slaves served as playthings for slave children. Golliwogg was a children's book rag doll character in the late 19th century that was widely reproduced as a toy. The doll has very black skin, eyes rimmed in white, clown lips, and frizzy hair, and has been described as an anti-black caricature. Early mass-produced black dolls were typically dark versions of their white counterparts. The earliest American black dolls with realistic African facial features were made in the 1960s.
Since ancient times, dolls have played a central role in magic and religious rituals and have been used as representations of deities. Dolls have also traditionally been toys for children. Dolls are also collected by adults, for their nostalgic value, beauty, historical importance or financial value. Antique dolls originally made as children's playthings have become collector's items. Nineteenth-century bisque dolls made by French manufacturers such as Bru and Jumeau may be worth almost $22,000 today.
In Western society, a gender difference in the selection of toys has been observed and studied. Action figures that represent traditional masculine traits are popular with boys, who are more likely to choose toys that have some link to tools, transportation, garages, machines and military equipment. Dolls for girls tend to represent feminine traits and come with such accessories as clothing, kitchen appliances, utensils, furniture and jewelry.
A doll hospital is a workshop that specializes in the restoration or repair of dolls. Doll hospitals can be found in countries around the world. One of the oldest doll hospitals was established in Lisbon, Portugal in 1830, and another in Melbourne, reputedly the first such establishment in Australia, was founded in 1888. There is a Doll Doctors Association in the United States. Henri Launay, who has been repairing dolls at his shop in northeast Paris for 43 years, says he has restored over 30,000 dolls in the course of his career. Most of the clients are not children, but adults in their 50s and 60s. Some doll brands, such as American Girl and Madame Alexander, also offer doll hospital services for their own dolls.