Maria’s Dolls

Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Marias Dolls 01
Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Marias Dolls 02
Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Marias Dolls 03



The “souvenir” or “national costume” doll originated in the folk dolls invented in the 19th century. They serve to represent the identity of a region of country, but that is not all. As “cheap” ambassadors of celluloid, plastic or vinyl, they conjured up for working-class people in the interwar period the delights of paid holidays, an elsewhere that was fantasised, yet structured, with a stereotypical identity. Protected in their transparent acetate box, sometimes crammed into a showcase, they reflect an almost childlike desire (dolls, even of the “souvenir” variety, evoke childhood) to escape from their hard-working, exhausting and dull everyday reality. The organised clash here between the charming, even cheesy datedness of these dolls with the grey banality of the town, the historical birthplace of a disadvantaged proletariat, prompts us to reflect on the situation of human beings in the urban environment and their vulnerability. In the series “Maria’s Dolls”, Paolo Topy stages these old-fashioned figurines evocative of a type of mass tourism whose kitschy aesthetic is a refuge for the affect. Placed precariously and perhaps even forgotten on a window sill, with anonymous, almost featureless buildings in the background, they challenge us. What are human beings in a city today? What is their place? What are their dreams and aspirations that focus, among other things, on this need for an imagined and idealised distant elsewhere, where the smallest things seem so bright and delightful. What might a particular identity, a true individuality, be in a world where clothing fashions, architecture, attitudes and hyper-urbanised and stereotypical behaviours erase all trace of origin and their particularisms?

Yves Peltier

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