The King of Dolls
LJEPOSLAV PERINIC 1922-2005
The King of Dolls with gifts representing Tibet, Argentina and Spain, donated by Dalai Lama, Carlos Menem and the Queen Sofia of Spain.
A doll donated by Dalai Lama, representing a Tibetan King from 8th century.
I met Mr. Ljeposlav Perinic in the summer 1999 in Zagreb, after his friendly telephone call related to the famous Croatian Glagolitic Texte du Sacre in France. I learned an unusual story about his unique collection of more than 350 dolls in national costumes from over 120 countries, from all five continents. His invaluable collection contains dolls that he obtained as gifts from dignitaries, Kings, Queens, Emperors, Empresses, Presidents, First Ladies, Prime Ministers, Governors, etc. Among them are Pope Paul VI (the Vatican), Indira Gandhi (India), Carlos Menem (Argentina), G.A. Naser (Egypt), Grace Kelly (Monaco), Haile Selassie (Ethiopia), Farrah Diba Pahlavi - the First Lady of Iran, Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan), Konrad Adenauer (Germany), Queen Sofia of Spain, Mao Tse Tung (China), Dalai Lama (Tibet in China), Enver Hoxha (Albania), Moise Chombe (Kongo), then
MAHARADJAHIRADSA MAHENDRA BIKRAM JANG BAHADUR SHAH SHAMBAHER JANG DEVA
(Nepal), Franjo Tudjman (Croatia), and many others.
How did he collect his dolls? Well, he simply wrote, and asked for dolls in national costumes. However, the story has deeper roots. Born in 1922 in Split (his mother was a Croat from Boka Kotorska, at that time in Croatia), Mr. Perinic was only six years old when his father took him to the funeral of Stjepan Radic, assassinated in the Yugoslav Parliament in Belgrade in 1928. There he was fascinated by a great variety of picturesque Croatian national costumes that thousands of people wore, among them also the Bokelj Mariners in their typical solemn costumes. This picture remained deeply rooted in his mind. In 1946 he had met Marija Prpic again, while he was working for Croatian radio in Austria. It was a time of many troubles. A group of people escaped (from communism and misfortune) and arrived in Austria to a refugee-camp. Marija was allowed by her parents to travel since her brother Jure Prpic was in the group. While in the refugee-camp Ljeposlav and Marija were married in a wooden chapel by a Catholic Priest accompanied by friends. In 1947 they arrived to Argentina.
A Swiss guardian donated to the King of Dolls by Pope Paul VI.
When Mr. Perinic, still anonymous, collected already 78 dolls in 1965, he thought to stop writing letters, since he had a modest apartment, with insufficient space for so many dolls. But, then 79th doll arrived, a Swiss guardian from Pope Paul VI, together with Pope's apostolic blessing for Mr Perinic's family. Upon the initiative of a local Catholic priest, an exhibition of dolls was organized that achieved tremendous success. It was visited by 10,000 people, including several ambassadors in Buenos Aires. The first exhibition of dolls in history attracted newspapermen from "France Press," "Reuters," "United Press," "The Associated Press." That is how he became known as the King of Dolls. The name Rey de las muńecas (The King of Dolls) was given to him for the first time in Mexico. It is interesting that the Spanish language, which is spoken by about 350 million people, has been enriched by two new words due to dolls of Mr. Perinic:
- muńecologo (coined in Argentina), and
- muńecoteca mas grande del mundo (coined in Uruguay).
Gift to the King of Dolls by Golda Meir, Israel.
In the following years he had more than fifty exhibitions of his dolls in Argentina, the USA and Canada. Through these exhibitions he took advantage to promote Croatian culture, its folklore and music. When an exhibition was held in Santa Barbara in the USA, a Jewish doll was stolen, which was a gift from Israeli prime minister Golda Meir. The value of the stolen doll was estimated to 20,000 USD. Soon afterwards newspapers wrote about this exhibition and Golda Meir, having learned about the disappearance of the doll during the exhibition, sent another one to Mr. Perinic!
Before his mother arrived to visit them in Don Torcuato near Buenos Aires for the first time in 1957, he asked her to bring dolls in Croatian national costumes. It was to be her first appointment with her three grand-daughters. When they saw beautiful Croatian dolls, they asked their father: "Father, do other nations also have their national costumes?" "Of course", was the answer. And the question was an impetus. Mr. Perinic came to a very original idea: to write letters to various statesmen and to ask them for dolls in their national costumes for his three daughters. As he said, "if I had only one boy among them, this idea probably would never come to me." And indeed, having sent three requests, soon after a doll arrived from the first lady of Mexico - Mrs. Eva Samano de Lopez Mateos, then from Konrad Adenauer, the founder of the new German state. Argentinean president Levingston explained in his letter that the state budget did not provide for the cost of dolls.
A doll by Indira Gandhi donated to the King of Dolls.
When Indira Gandhi payed an official visit to Argentina in 1968, she brought two gifts in her bag: one for Argentinean president and another for Mr. Perinic. Neil Armstrong, a famous American astronaut, the first man who walked on the Moon, answered to Mr. Perinic that he does not know of a doll in Texas that would deserve to be in his collection. It is interesting to say that G.A. Naser, president of Egypt, used to send his Christmas and New Year's cards to Mr. Perinic regularly every year, until his tragic death.
It seems to be of interest to mention several answers that he obtained:
- French president Charles De Gaulle wrote that there was no doll in his palace that he could send.
- British Queen Elisabeth II answered that she does not send gifts to unknown persons.
- President of Surinam (at that time a Dutch colony in South America) John Henri Eliza Ferrier sent his signed photo instead of a doll.
- Mois Chombe (Kongo) started his letter with "Dear Madam Perinic"...
- The King of Swaziland in Africa answered that he has no dolls (and we know that he had 100 wives...)
- Perinic's unique Empire has a doll from Queen Gyalmo of Sikkim. Sikkim is a little known kingdom in the Himalayas.
A doll representing Senegal, Africa, donated to the King of Dolls by president Leopold Senghor.
Mr Perinic wrote an article about a Croatian painter Kristian Krekovic, famous for his gallery in Palma de Mallorca (Perinic, Ljeposlav: Kristian Krekovic, pintor croata-peruano (1901-1985), Studia Croatica, Buenos Aires, volumen 100, ano 1986, página 27-3.). It is interesting that Krekovic portrayed several outstanding persons:
- Mahatma Gandhi,
- the English Queen (in 1938, upon her request),
- the royal family of Spain,
- and the royal family of Sweden.
A lovely doll donated to the King of Dolls by Grace Kelly, princess of Monaco.
On the above photo you can see a lovely gift from Grace Kelly, princess of Monaco. Mr. Perinic was a frequent guest on TVs in several countries: Argentina, Uruguay, the USA, Canada, Croatia. In an official bulletin issued by the United Nations (Information UNESCO, No. 540, September 1968) a whole page was devoted to his dolls, that were described in an article entitled United Nations in the Dolls. If you happen to stay in Croatian capital Zagreb for a while, don't miss to see Mr. Perinic's collection that he donated in 1991. It has been permanently exhibited in the center of Zagreb (Zrinjevac square 14, Tourist information center, quite near the Embassy of the USA) in 2000. Great merit for very complex and nontrivial transport of over 300 dolls from Hamilton, Canada, to Zagreb, have Anamarija Snajdar from Croatian Radio Sljeme, and Petar Milicic, nephew of Mr. Perinic.
The Vicar of the Croatian Parish in Ottawa, Canada, who financially supported the transfer, it is interesting to say - was Black. When he visited Zagreb, on the occasion of the first exhibition of dolls held there in 1991, he also payed a visit to the most famous sanctuary of Marija Bistrica (near Zagreb) to see the "Black Madonna". On his return to Zagreb, he remarked to Mr. Perinic: The church was fantastic, it was packed with people, and what was very interesting, was that only the Madonna and me were black, while all the others were white!
The international exhibition EXPO '67 held in Montreal in Canada had also a small pavilion full of dolls. It was Mr. Perinic's pavilion where he exhibited his collection, unofficially called Croatian pavilion (it was also the sole exhibit of Argentina). He had numerous charitable exhibitions of his dolls, mainly for UNICEF children's program. As an example, one of exhibitions of his dolls was organized in order to help children in Argentina suffering from leprosy. On another exhibition of dolls, funds gathered in this way sufficed to build a house in the children's village in Garin, in the vicinity of Buenos Aires, directed by S.O.S. OPROVI Argentina. Here S.O.S. Children's Village is a well known charitable international organization, founded by Hermann Gmeiner in 1949 in Austria. It is interesting that the building was named - CROACIA.
Mexican doll donated to the King of Dolls by Mrs. Eva Samano de Lopez Mateos, the first lady of Mexico.
Eleonora Aimone, Argentinian poetesse and writer (born in Italy) wrote the following verses dedicated to the King of Dolls (published in Marulic, Zagreb, 6/1998):
Translated into Croatian by Ana Blazekovic.
| El Rey de las muńecas |
A Ljeposlav Perinic
Saber de ti es remontar y tu mirada.
al cielo de un amanecer sońado
Es trepar nubes de ilusión
y descender, con las manos llenas
de rizos y de tules bordados,
de zapatitos y faldas multicolores,
de cintas y monos labrados.
Saber de ti es volver a la infancia,
a mecer en nuestros brazos
la muńeca con bucles de oro, la de trenzas negras,
la vestida de harapos
o el soldadito con el sable en la mano.
Saber de ti es la certeza inefable
de haber encontrado un espacio
donde se detiene el tiempo,
un estanque de aguas claras,
un soplo de brisa perfumada,
un Edén de paz donde
un duende pasta su ternura
entre nińos de porcelana...
| Kralj lutaka |
Znati za tebe to je kao vinuti se i tvojim začaranim očima.
u visine zore u snu naslućene.
Lebdjeti po oblacima umišljaja
i sletjeti punih ruku
vezena finog tila i pramičak uvojaka,
cipelica i šarenih haljinica
urešenih vrpcama i mašnicama.
Znati za tebe to je kao vratiti se u djetinjstvo
i na rukama ljuljati
lutku zlatnih uvojaka,
lutku crnih pletenica,
i onu u dronjcima,
ili pak malenog vojnika sa sabljom u ruci.
Znati za tebe to je kao neizrecivo pouzdanje
da smo naišli na mjesto
gdje se zaustavilo vrijeme,
vrelo bistre vode,
lahor mirisava povjetarca,
rajski vrt sreće i mira
gdje duhovi šeću sa svojim dražima
među dječicom od porculana...
Nikolai Podgorny, president of Russia, donated 15 dolls: one from each of fifteen former Soviet republics. It is interesting that during an exhibition dolls held in the province of La Pampa in Argentina a Russian doll had disappeared. Calls from local radio were frequently broadcast during the whole day in order to find it, but in vain. Finally, a father of a 5 year old child brought it the next day, saying with excuses that he has found it in his car. Mr. Perinic is very proud that children stay very long at his exhibitions. Their parents just as well.
The King of Dolls Mr Ljeposlav Perinić with the doll donated by Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic.
We are glad and proud to announce that the first doll for The King of Dolls' collection that arrived in the 21st century (and in the third millennium) came from the Czech Republic, in a very nice national costume (on the above photo), and with the accompanying letter signed by His Excellency Mr. Vaclav Klaus, president of the state:
Mrs Teresa Perinic de Belofatto, one of daughters of the King of Dolls, continued to collect dolls after the death of her father in 2005. Here are some of them.
A gift to the King of Dolls from Mexico by president Felipe Calderon.
A doll from Russia, donated to the King of Dolls by president Vladimir Putin.
The article about the King of Dolls has been translated from English into Russian
by Mr. Dmitry Vedushenko from Russia, Ryazan. He is one of the fans of the King and my dear friend. On the photo taken in Zagreb by his wife Vika are Darko, Dmitry, and his daughter Anja.
Of course, The King of Dolls obtained numerous dolls from Croatia. Here is a doll which he obtained from his native city of Split, in typical old costumes of the city:
The King of Dolls in Croatia's capital Zagreb, in the Zrinjevac park, with dolls representing Pakistan, South Korea, Brasil and India.
The King of Dolls and Darko Žubrinić, the author of this article, among King's dolls in Zagreb.
For more information please visit The King of Dolls, an extensive article available in English, Croatian, Spanish and Russian.