The case of the famed Alma Mahler doll, however, is a special one. While it was sort of a sex doll and sort of a mannequin—and as such, not really my area of study—it also had an unimpeachable toy pedigree: in 1918, after the great muse ended her relationship with the artist Oskar Kokoschka, he commissioned a life-size replica of his lost love from the doll-maker Hermine Moos.
Kokoschka took a strong hand in the doll’s design, sending sketches, measurements, and explicit instructions. Much of the correspondence still survives. E.g.:
Yesterday I sent a life-size drawing of my beloved and I ask you to copy this most carefully and to transform it into reality. Pay special attention to the dimensions of the head and neck, to the ribcage, the rump and the limbs. And take to heart the contours of body, e.g., the line of the neck to the back, the curve of the belly. Please permit my sense of touch to take pleasure in those places where layers of fat or muscle suddenly give way to a sinewy covering of skin. For the first layer (inside) please use fine, curly horsehair; you must buy an old sofa or something similar; have the horsehair disinfected. Then, over that, a layer of pouches stuffed with down, cottonwool for the seat and breasts. The point of all this for me is an experience which I must be able to embrace!
I am very curious to see how the stuffing works. On my drawing I have broadly indicated the flat areas, the incipient hollows and wrinkles that are important to me, will the skin—I am really extremely impatient to find out what that will be like and how its texture will vary according to the nature of the part of the body it belongs to—make the whole thing richer, tenderer, more human? Take as your ideal … Rubens’ pictures of his wife, for example the two where she is shown as a young woman with her children. If you are able to carry out this task as I would wish, to deceive me with such magic that when I see it and touch it imagine that I have the woman of my dreams in front of me, then dear Fräulein Moos, I will be eternally indebted to your skills of invention and your womanly sensitivity as you may already have deduced from the discussion we had.
The outer shell is a polar-bear pelt, suitable for a shaggy imitation bedside rug rather than the soft and pliable skin of a woman. […] The result is that I cannot even dress the doll, which you knew was my intention, let alone array her in delicate and precious robes. Even attempting to pull on one stocking would be like asking a French dancing-master to waltz with a polar bear.