Each measuring approximately 7 inches high, these highly sought after Black Vargas wax figures which are mounted on their original wooden platforms, are two of a series of fascinating "street character wax dolls" conceived of and crafted by Mrs. Conception Vargas Alfonso, daughter of the world-renowned, turn-of-the-century-New Orleans, Spanish sculptor, Francisco Vargas.
From approximately 1915 through the 1930's, Mrs. Vargas-Alphonso, influenced by the artistry of her father who also sculpted in wax, crafted a variety of wax dolls inspired by the black folk she saw on New Orleans's street corners while growing up. Sold exclusively at the time through Harriet's, of 318 Rue Royale in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the completely hand-made, one-of-a-kind dolls are seldom found on today's market due to their inherently fragile nature, making them highly sought after in the Black Memorabilia Collectible arena.
The female figure is known as the Praline Seller as her business was to sell freshly made Pralines, a candy confection composed of Louisiana cane sugar and pecans. Her straw, woven basket contains four Praline cookies or flatbreads.
The male figure is known as the grapevine and/or alligator seller. The grapevines are tied in a large bundle on his back which he also supports using the rope in his right hand, while leading a young alligator along in his left.
Vargas wax figures are distinctly characterized by their interesting but highly exaggerated facial features.
The Praline Seller wears a vividly colorful array of different pattern fabrics which work to comprise her eye-catching costume. Atop her head, she wears a large, green and red polka dot bandanna that allows a bit of her wildly-curly, dark hair to peek through, with a solid yellow bandanna tied around her neck. Her her red, cream and blue patterned blouse and skirt are partially protected by a rather sedate, cream-colored apron. All of her clothing is constructed of actual cloth fabric that was coated with a fine layer of clear wax to stiffen it. She carries her basket of pralines on her right arm, while holding a piece of paper in her right hand. A written price list, perhaps? In her left hand she carries a reed duster to keep the flies off of her confections!
The Grapevine/Alligator also wears fabric clothing coated in wax. His pink, white and blue patterned bandanna is tied around his neck and worn over a red, blue and yellow plaid shirt and blue denim pants. He is missing his hat-- perhaps, the alligator ate it?! He holds onto the gator's rope in his left hand while trying to balance the huge mound of grapevine on his back via a rope end clutched in his right hand.
The figures' wax bodies are internally supported by wire frames through which the figures are securely attached to the wooden base. The bottom of each base retains its original stamp which reads, "Genuine VARGAS New Orleans, LA".
These wonderful figures are in near mint condition for their 75+ years of age. The Praline Seller perhaps has lost a couple of her pralines from her basket over the years, an insignificant detail, or perhaps her basket was never meant to be filled to indicate that she had already successfully made some sales! The Grapevine/Alligator is missing his hat as noted earlier, as well as two of his fingers on his left hand, a common injury as they are so very, very thin and inherently fragile. The young Alligator is missing the tip of his tail and the tip of the top of his mouth, again, two very thin pieces of wax which were vulnerable to easily breaking off.
Please note that the Vargas figures are priced $795.00 EACH.