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Decorating with Santos Cage Dolls – Cool or Creepy?

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Learn the history, the difference between a Santos doll and a Santos cage doll, ideas for decorating, and where to buy these beauties. Cool or creepy…you decide!

I adore Santos dolls, particularly Santos cage dolls.  I have a few in my home and unfortunately, these might be the only two I purchase since my husband finds them a little creepy…  But to me, they amazing works of art!  I love their serene expressions, delicate features and soft, beautiful colors.

How to Decorate with Santos Dolls

What is a Santos Cage doll? 

Originally started as copies of 17th century carvings by priests, Santos dolls take their name from the Spanish word for Saint, and are also known as Santons (French) and Santibelli (Italian). 

In Europe, small villages often did not have a priest present, and it wasn’t always possible to travel to a church. So Santos were created to use for in-home altars.

Antique vs Reproduction

Typically, antique dolls have glass eyes and given that they are difficult to find and in high demand, antique dolls can be quite costly.  Reproductions also exist, although they often have painted eyes. 

Santos Doll vs. Santos Cage Doll

Versus a traditional Santos doll, a Santos CAGE doll is a doll from the torso up and an open wire cage on the bottom.  Many Santos dolls are articulated, including the cage dolls, which often have articulated arms.

Group of Santos Dolls

Ideas for Decorating with Santos Dolls

Either way, antique or reproduction, Santos cage dolls can be a beautiful addition to a home’s decor.  If you have a collection, they look nice when grouped together to create a statement.

728-santos-doll

If you have just one (or even a few), it can be a nice addition when mixed with other, more traditional objects in the room. 

If tall, they can be used to add height to displays.

via Blue Egg Brown Nest on Etsy
via Blue Egg Brown Nest on Etsy

Highly articulated dolls can begin to take on any shape you want, such as this one which is being used as a paper weight for decorating magazines.

Or, you can even add them to a bathroom or dressing area and drape your necklaces on them when not in use.  In fact, given this common use for Santos dolls, you can now find actual jewelry holders that were inspired by cage dolls.

via SantosCageDoll.com
via SantosCageDoll.com

I love to mix vintage pieces with newer, more traditional items, and Santos dolls are among my favorite vintage items.  So, despite that my husband finds them a little scary, I still have fun using them in my home!

Where to Buy Santos Dolls

They can be hard to find, but your best bets will be:

Here are a few of my favorites:

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8 Comments

  1. Ann Scott says:

    I have three santos dolls (all reproductions). I am currently displaying only two of the three, but I am trying to find a place for the third one. My brother thinks they are creepy, but I love them. They are increasingly hard to find.

    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Ann!

      I love them, too! If you ever find a good source for them, please let me know!

      :) Kim

  2. Thank you for this informative piece on Santo’s dolls. Makes me want to search one out even more. Cindy <3

    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      I really want another one, too!! Good luck with your search!

  3. Kim Winsor says:

    Would love to know if you open up a store to sell santos dolls

  4. I would love a Santos Doll! I would love to buy one of yours!!! Regards lisa

  5. thank you ! you helped me decide on purchasing my first cage doll . They are soooo beautiful and intriguing . I know beyond a shadow of a doubt my husband of 41 years is going to freak out ( in a bad way ) when she arrives . He too will think she’s creepy …. what is it with guys ? : ) My ‘hubby’ has a mounted deer in his cabin , now that’s creepy to me : ) , can hardly wait to put her in an obvious place ….. I think I’ll put a crown on her ….. maybe even a skirt … yours sincerely , annie

  6. Hi there

    I was hoping you could please help me with some more information about Santos caged dolls. I have the exact some doll as the one shown in picture number 3 above, the lady with the crown behind her head. I was wondering if you could please give me abit more info. About the history of this doll and it’s possible meaning? I know nothing about my doll, how do I know if it’s a reproduction doll? And Approx. how much is my doll valued? How do I tell how old it is? And how should I clean my doll? I just recently brought my Santo doll very cheaply online and she was not advertised as a santos doll, she was just listed as “wooden lady ornament” and in good condition but I found her intriging and unusual, so I brought her on her uniqueness. Only to find out now, after looking online she is a santos caged doll, looks exactly like you have pictured above. Anyway if you can help me with some answers that would be much appreciated, thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. Kind Regards, Rachael

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