When bisque dolls began appearing in France during the 1850s, their matte finish offered a trendy, realistic alternative to the glossy china dolls popular at the time. Though both were made from porcelain, collectors refer to unglazed tinted dolls as bisque and shiny glazed dolls as china, while the term porcelain is often reserved for contemporary dolls.

Most bisque dolls were manufactured in France or the Thuringia region of Germany, an area famous for its natural clay deposits. Successful German firms like Kämmer & Reinhardt, Kestner, Heubach Koppelsdorf, and Simon & Halbig competed with French producers such as Bru Jne, Jumeau, Huret, and Steiner.

Early bisque doll heads were pressed into molds by hand, but eventually, this thick clay paste was improved with a thinner, pourable slip that resulted in a smoother surface texture and more intricate detailing. Most items had a mold number marked into the interior portion of the head, and sometimes a company name was stamped on the head or chest, too.

Bisque dolls were generally fired once, then painted to create skin tones and facial features, and finally fired again. These dolls are sometimes referred to as “blonde bisque” as they were typically produced with a light blonde shade of molded hair. However, a smaller segment of bisque products, called Parian dolls, were made from unpainted white porcelain. The first Parian mixture was developed in the late 1850s, possibly by John Mountford of the Copeland & Garrett company (later known as Spode).

Also called stone china, statuary porcelain, or carrara, Parian became fashionable for its similarity to expensive white marble: When finished, Parian dolls have a silky smooth surface and are semi-translucent. Most Parian doll heads were manufactured in Germany, and their porcelain parts were mounted onto cotton or leather bodies filled with fabric and sawdust. These expensive dolls were often purchased to decorate adult drawing rooms, rather than as playthings for children.

Though Parian dolls had a brief moment of success alongside tinted bisque, their popularity declined in the 1880s. Meanwhile, the market for skin-toned bisque dolls continued to boom, in part because of their heightened realism.

Bisque figures fall into three types—adult fashion dolls, bébé or baby dolls, and character dolls, which imitated a certain costume or personality. The most common bisque dolls f...

The first bisque dolls came with molded hair, eyes, and mouths, but eventually incorporated glass eyes that opened and closed, complex wigs made from human or animal hair, and even inset teeth. While some bisque heads and limbs came already attached to a stuffed cloth body, often the finest porcelain parts were sold separately for home assembly. These ornate heads were made with small holes below the neckline so they could be hand sewn onto bodies made from fabric, leather, composition, or wood. On some Parian busts, the careful treatment of the shoulders and neckline suggests that these were actually packaged as decorative art objects to display in the home, for these details would have been obscured if a doll was fully assembled and clothed.

Originally, the most intricate heads were produced in Germany and shipped for sale in France and the United States, though toward the end of the 19th century, French companies began manufacturing their own detailed heads to match their dolls’ ornate accessories. Many of the most innovative design advancements also occurred in France, like Ainé Blampoix’s patent for applying glass eyes or Mlle Huret’s swivel neck that made heads easy to tilt and turn.

Besides their delicate facial features, doll heads were lavished with decorative touches, including miniature flowers, combs, feathers, lace, and jewels. In keeping with prevailing trends of the Victorian era, the most exquisite bisque dolls came with elaborately styled wigs of real hair pinned to a cork pate, or pierced ears with tiny glass earrings. Other dolls were made with carefully painted feet, sometimes covered in patterned stockings or trendy leather boots.

In Paris, the Passage Choiseul became the locus of doll fashion, where milliners, wig-makers, corset and dress designers, and cobblers all produced exquisitely detailed accoutrements. Known as “fashion dolls” or “Parisiennes,” the bisque dolls assembled here wore elaborate outfits mirroring current trends. These dolls also acted as miniature mannequins, which could be exported abroad so that affluent women could keep abreast of clothing styles in France.

Despite the prevailing belief that fashion dolls were only for adult women, the introduction of doll advertising and display stands aimed directly at children suggests that many of these high-priced bisque dolls were actually meant for kids, albeit very wealthy ones.

In the late 19th century, the first significant numbers of male dolls were also made with bisque. These included the small, six-inch versions used as butlers in doll houses, but also larger varieties imitating elegantly dressed gentlemen in fanciful foreign costumes. Because these figures typically utilized the same molds and patterns as female dolls, it was easier to disguise them as young boys rather than men, whose rounded faces more closely resembled a female doll.

In the early 20th century, bisque was gradually replaced by a variety of other materials, like composition and plastic, as the baby-doll fad dominated the market. During the 1970s and '80s, a revival of interest in classic bisque designs inspired many expensive reproductions aimed at adult doll collectors. Today, typically the most desirable antique bisque dolls are the early products of reputable French companies like Jumeau, Bru, and Huret, or German-made character dolls.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Dollreference.com

Dollreference.com

This densely packed index of antique and vintage dolls claims to offer over 10,000 images of dolls from the 1800s … [read review or visit site]

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Rhonda Wilson's collection of 1950s dolls, organized by name (Ginny and friends, Littlest Angel and friends, etc.) … [read review or visit site]

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylee's extensive collection of vintage dolls from the 1930s to 90s. Click the balloons to browse. Though Kaylee s… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Antique Small 8.5inch Jumeau Bebe No. 1 French Bisque Head Doll, NrRare Antique Bisque Kestner Doll 143 10" Character Doll Antique 17" Bisque Doll Closed Mouth Pierced Ears Alt Beck Gottschalk #870 Antique All Bisque Simon & Halbig Rare Black Stockings Wedding Bride DollOh My Darling! 17" Heinrich Handwerck 109 Antique Doll W/orig Mohair Wig C1895!Nice Antique Bebe Jumeau Reclame Open Mouth Size 9 22 Inch - 56 Cm PerfectAngel In White 28" Heinrich Handwerck/simon & Halbig Antique Bisque Doll -- Wow!Sweet Chunky Cheeks 20" Kammer & Reinhardt 22 Antique Bisque Toddler Doll!4 1/2" (11 Cm) Antique German Mulatto Black Tiny Mignonette DollAntique 18" French Bisque Turned Dome Head Jumeau Doll Antique OutfitAntique French Bisque Head Doll, Sfbj 301 X, Perfect & Gorgeous !!!Antique Jumeau French Tete Bebe Bisque Head Comp Body 19 Doll Antique Mohair WigBack To School Girl 19" Simon & Halbig 1079 Antique Doll C1900 So Precious SweetAntique German Porcelain Art Deco Half Doll Flapper Sewing Pin Cushion VanityAntique Germany S&h Simon Halbig Dep Bisque Doll Original Clothes 1249 3 1/2Beautiful 9" Kestner Mold 329 Bisque German DollAntique 1870's Doll Leather Body Bisque Head With Clothes 18" Blue EyesKestner 171 Original Marked Body - 26" TallBeautiful Old Vtg Large 7.5" Tall Antique Blue Eye Blonde Parian Doll Head ChinaSmall Antique German A. Marseille Bisque Boy Doll #323 A 11/0 M - Googly EyedAntique German Bisqe Doll Cm Bergmann S&h (sister)14" Antique Bisque Or Parian Fashion Doll Black Glass Pupiless Eyes Antique Perfect 22" C1890 German Bisque Gans & Seyfarth Doll On Original Body Antique Kestner 4 1/2" Stiff Neck All Bisque DollAntique German Porcelain Art Deco Half Doll Flapper Sewing Pin Cushion VanityAntique DollThe Sweetest Most Adorable 29" Sfbj !!! / Tiny FlawAntique 26" German Bisque Head Compo Ball Jointed "special 65" Kley & Hahn DollAntique All Bisque Closed Mouth Doll - Made In Germany - Possibly KestnerVintage Kammer & Reinhardt K * R 101 15" Character Doll~sugar Plum Sweetheart~19" Heinrich Handwerck/halbig Antique Doll In Velvet! 14 1/2" Antique French Early Papier Mache Doll W/closed Mouth, Wooden Body2.75" All Bisque Doll, Original Clothes, JointedAntique Bisque Doll 21" Jointed Old Doll Antique 18" Schoenau Hoffmeister 1909 Bisque/compo Doll For Tlc Or PartsAntique German Porcelain Art Deco Half Doll Nude Sewing Pin Cushion Vanity Antique 27" French Bru Bisque Lady Doll Nice Body Head Very Tlc Antique Doll Shoes Boots Button Up French Jumeau Signed J. J.Antique Original Bonnet For Jumeau Bru Steiner Other Doll, Original French LabelAntique All Bisque DollBisque Porcelain Doll - "rabbit Child", 1890-1920, Mobile Arms, Legs, Head WhitePetite 3.5" Antique Bisque Mignonette Doll Jointed "free Standing" Fancy BootsAntique Very Rare Three Face Doll HeadAntique Schoenau & Hoffmeister German Marotte Doll W Rare Original Clothes Works1 Bisque Porcelain Doll - "dog", 1890-1920, Mobile Arms, Legs, HeadPair Of Bisque Shoulder Plate Dolls, As Found By Heinrich HandwerkClassic French Huret Bisque Head Lady Doll2 Bisque Porcelain Dolls - "rabbit Children", Limbach, 1890-1920, Mobile ArmsAntique Bisque Tiny 4 1/4" Pin Jointed Germany Child Doll ~ Needs Eyes & Wig~Antique Porcelain Miniature German Doll - Plus Parts Bisque Porcelain Doll - "rabbit Child", 1890-1920, Mobile Arms, Legs, Head Grey2 Made In Germany Dolls 13" Signed D. O. 2 Crossed Flags Bisque Orig ClothesAntique Small Porcelain Bisque Doll W Sleep Glass Eyes W Dress & Hat & Bloomers2 Bisque Porcelain Dolls - "dogs", Limbach, 1890-1920, Mobile Arms, Legs, Heads1 Bisque Porcelain Dolls - "dog", Limbach, 1890-1920, Mobile Arms, Legs, HeadAntique Heubach Koppelsdorf 9" German Bisque Doll No. 25045 W/ DressAntique German Porcelain Art Deco Half Doll Legs Sewing Pin Cushion VanityRare Victorian German ? K&w Leather Kid Skin Body Bisque Head DollAntique Simon And Halbig 1009 Dep 11½ Doll 26"Early 1900's Antique German Cm Bergmann Simon & Halbig Bisque Head Doll 30"

Recent News: Bisque Dolls

Source: Google News

What's It Worth? German bisque doll, circa 1905
San Jose Mercury News, August 27th

In the secondary market, most dolls are identified by the maker of the bisque head. Some bodies are marked, but many are not. Most molds have numbers corresponding to the style of face and size of doll. Your doll has both Heinrich Handwerck and Simon ...Read more

Creative arts results
Great Falls Tribune, August 24th

209 - Miscellaneous- Dolls non- textile ············· 1 record. Linda Graft 1. 214 - Miscellaneous- FimoClay Art ············· 3 records. Kasidy Love 1 .... 51 - Pre Brought Bisque- Plaster ············· 1 record. Sherry Garbarino 1. 56 - Small Leather...Read more

One for all at Sash in Limerick
Irish Independent, August 22nd

My Fisherman's Soup was a traditional saffron-infused French seafood bisque, very satisfying, served in the French style with croutons, aioli and grated cheese. I would have preferred a more intense rouille, and I can't be sure that the cheese was...Read more

Some collectibles better at weathering economic storm
Mid Columbia Tri City Herald, August 22nd

Some large Jumeau dolls from Paris dating to the late 1800s can be valued at more than $10,000. They are exquisite and highly sought by collectors. What your grandmother has is a small — about 3 inches high — all-bisque doll clearly marked “Made in ...Read more

Tomatoes, bacon, and roasted lamb: 10 dining events you want to know about
City Pages, August 20th

Snacks will be provided by Chow Girls Killer Catering and donuts by Glam Dolls. The event is to benefit ... You must purchase one adult entree per kid, and kids can only eat off the kids menu, so sorry, no crawfish bisque for little Johnny. Firelake...Read more

Explore the World of the Quay Brothers With a Spirited Doc From Christopher Nolan
Village Voice, August 18th

He's eventually beckoned beyond the glass; there, he's seduced, reprogrammed, and remade by a troupe of silent sirens with bisque baby-doll heads, their eyes glowing with light, their heads stuffed with cotton. With its wordless poetry, the Quays' ...Read more

When it comes to doll repair, Sandy Hohne does it all
Baltimore Sun, April 17th

When it comes to doll repair, Sandy Hohne can do it all, and quickly, too. She sculpts, paints, patches, makes wigs, and replaces eyes and teeth. In her Cockeysville work room, Hohne repairs dolls made in the early 1800's up to the present. Her tools...Read more

Floating fence surrounds house and doll-making atelier by UID Architects
Dezeen, July 25th

A narrow white wall appears to hover around the perimeter and garden of this house and atelier – the third project on Dezeen this week by Japanese office UID Architects (+ slideshow). Atelier-bisque doll by UID Architects. UID Architects – the ...Read more