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    

Antique 19" Closed Mouth Kestner German Bisque Doll Crepe Silk & Lace DressRare Antique Belton French Doll All Original Dress Clothes Small Cabinet Size41" The Hugest Kammer & Reinhardt Antique Doll Made In Fab Antique Ensemble-$1nrSfbj Antique Doll French Paris Jumeau Doll Paperweight Eyes & Pierced EarsDarling Kestner All Bisque Antique Doll W/ Rare Glass EyesBeautiful Jumeau French Fashion Poupee Lady Antique Doll 20" Very Rare Simon Halbig Mein Neuer Liebling K&r S&h 117n "antik Um1916"Antique German Catterfelder Puppen-fabrik Pierced Ears Bisque Composition DollRare Antique Al Bisque German Simon & Halbig Doll With Rare 5 Strap BootsAntique French Doll Jumeau Bru Germany Bisque Wooden Body 19" Simon & HalbigRare Large Antique Fancy Hair China Head Doll W/ Rare Feathered BangsRare Large Size Antique Parian Boy Doll Rare Antique Simon & Halbig Tiny Doll 1018 Or 1078 Bisque Head Composition BodyAntique German ? French ? Bisque Turned Head Fashion Doll Head OnlyBeautiful Large Wooden Antique Doll Bed Furniture Salesman SampleLot Of 3 Antique German All Bisque Dolls - Glass Eyed, Wire Strung Etc.Original Closed Mouth French Market Pierced Ears Domed Head Bisque Belton DollAntique German Kammer & Reinhardt Peter Boy Doll 101 Rare Small SizeVintage Dress For Bisque DollAntique German Kley & Hahn Kh 260 Walkure Bisque Composition Body DollRare Antique French Sfbj 60 Rosette Bleuette Sister Doll Companion Antique German Simon & Halbig Kammer & Reinhardt Bisque Doll Pierced EarsAngel Faced Antique Kestner 171 German Bisque Head Doll 24"Antique Kestner Large Bisque Doll Head+glass Blue Eyes-marked Hilda Jdk Jr 1914Tlc Rare Antique French Tete Jumeau Closed Mouth Doll Head Need Of Repair PartsAntique Armand Marseille 590 German Charactere Bisque Doll 19" Antique Composition Body For Your German Bisque Doll 251 1/8Daisy's Little Sister 16.5" Handwerck/halbig Antique Bisque Doll -- What A Girl!6" Antique German ~~ 171 ~~ Germany Bisque Doll Head German Bisque Baby Doll - VintageAntique Bisque Doll Small 7'' Brown Eyes Human HairAntique German 5.5" Bisque Brize Baby Child Doll ~ #208 ~ EstateAntique German Max Handwerck Mold #283/33 Bisque Head Doll - 31"Antique Style Dress German French Doll Jumeau Kestner BruAntique 4" German Jointed Bisque Doll ~ EstateRare Antique Hertwig Boy & Girl Doll House Dolls Molded Clothes Lot Of Nine Vintage & Antique Bisque DollsAntique German Schoenau & Hoffmeister Burggrub Baby Girl Doll Bisque Head 169Beautiful Early Bisque Headed Doll - Glass Eyes - Armand Marseille - Very Rare17" German Bisque Antique Doll Schoenau & Hoffmeister S Pb H 1909 Sweet Girl!7" Antique Simon Halbig Heinrich Handwerck Bisque Doll Head 201 4/5Large Antique Parian Doll Fancy Hair Do & Pierced Ears & Wearing Antique Dress~ Beautiful!! Antique Bisque Head Kestner Shoulder Head Doll Open MouthLovely Antique French German Bisque Blonde Mohair Doll Wig Wispy Curls 15" HeadAntique? Doll18" Armand Marseille 1894 German Bisque Doll Dep Made In Germany Bargain AntiqueAntique Bisque Socket Head Doll Composition Body Miniature Dollhouse Shoe HeelRare Antique French Bébé Bleuette Unis France 301, 10 1/2" Tall Very Long HairsAntique China Head Doll Rare Bonnet Version All Original Clothes DressAntique 8-1/2" Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus Bisque Head Lady Rider DollPhenomenal Immense 40" K * R Sh 192 Character Girl W/stunning Velvet Dress/teddyAntique Parian Boy Doll House Doll In Rare Small Size Antique German Armand Marseilles A 0 1/2m 390 Bisque Composition Body Bride DollAntique Heinrich Handwerck Composition Doll Body ~ 4~ 201 5/5Rare Antique Lady Doll House Doll All Original Clothing Artist Reproduction Emma Clear Connect Antique Kestner German Lady Doll & DressAntique Gebruder Heubach Character Baby Stuart #7977 Bisque Doll - UnstrungAdorable German Antique Baby Doll Bahr & Proschild 585 Early Simon Halbig? S12h1009 Dep Bisque Composition Ball Jointed German Doll W/&Ltd Toy Stamp & 1900s Max Handwerck 23" German Bisque Head Doll W Comp Body

Recent News: Bisque Dolls

Source: Google News

Different sort of roadshow puts spotlight on antiques in Northampton, while ...
GazetteNET, April 25th

NORTHAMPTON — When Laura Bellusci's mother was born in 1916, she received a gift of a doll larger than she was — a bisque beauty with parted lips, eyes that closed and long tresses. ... The dolls sat looking a bit forlorn in a plastic hamper. “I can...Read more

Plan your weekend and beyond: Trentonian Community Calendar - April 23 ...
The Trentonian, April 24th

In addition, The Trenton City Museum, featuring the art and history of the region, is displaying the sculptural art of Edward Marshal Boehm's Spirit of Bethlehem porcelain bisque nativity set. The 16-piece scene has been distinguished ..... The...Read more

MORE NEWS IN THIS SECTION
Packet Online, April 23rd

The concert features works by these award-winning songwriters who created some of the world's most popular works of musical theater for both stage and film, including “My Fair Lady,” “That's Entertainment,” “Guys and Dolls” and more. Series tickets are...Read more

Toy Show a trip down memory lane
Chicago Tribune, April 21st

Among the items and toy types for sale are action figures, airplanes, bisque and china dolls, comics, construction toys, Cracker Jack, die-cast, dollhouses and furniture, Disney, Erector sets, farm toys, games, G.I. Joe, Hot Wheels, kaleidoscopes, Lego...Read more

Old Clinton pic sells for $90
Clinton Herald, April 18th

An antique bisque doll held for a $75 bid and a picture of workers dated 1919 believed to be the old Clinton car shops sold for $90. A cranberry Fenton vase sold for $50 with the blue Milano vase selling at $55. Several pieces of Cobalt blue glassware...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

Visual art events in Southwest Florida
The News-Press, April 15th

•Buckler's 23rd Annual Craft Fair handmade creations by local and national artists and crafters, custom home decor, unique gifts, dolls and toys, artwork, jewelry, woodwork, clothing and more. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. $6 adults...Read more

Antiques Column: Dolls are still favourites among keen collectors
Sheffield Telegraph, April 8th

Bisque dolls are considered some of the most elaborate and valuable dolls to collect. They have heads made from porcelain; tinted but unglazed. Most maker's marks are impressed or engraved into the back of the heads, often with a model number. French ...Read more