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”)



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    

Delightful French 24" Eden Bebe Antique Child Doll-so Gorgeous Wow! Must See!Antique Simon Halbig 1385 German French Market Bisque Fashion Doll Closed MouthAntique German Bisque Head, Ball Jointed Doll Composition Body Large 35"26 Inch Antique Bisque Head , Composition Body Jointed Doll**fabulous Look** - 390n Armand Marseille 19" Blue Eyed Girl Antique Doll Woww!!Rare Antique Doll Am Googly Nobbi Kid Armand Marseille German 253Antique Bb Jumeau Mold 1907 Size 13 Circa XxGerman Antique All Bisque Doll Sleep Eyes Jointed 545/13 5" Pretty Face ColorBeautiful Antique Blonde Mohair Wig French Jumeau Bru Steiner Or German DollAntique German Handwerck Bisque Head Doll Compo Body 31" Tall Glass EyesHeinrich Handwerck 32" Antique German Bisque Doll 1890's Model #109 15 1/2 X HAntique Old Armand Marseille Black Bisque Doll Dream Baby No. 351 9"Antique German Bisque Doll Kestner 155 Half Wood Jointed Body Human Hair WigAntique French Bisque Doll Dome Head Bru ? Earrings Repaired"armand Marseille" Bisque Head German Doll 27cm Tall.10" Antique Googly W/stuck Out Tongue By Armand Marseille #200 A. 6/0 M. 243.1Antique 14" Parian Curly Molded Blond Hair Glass Eyed Doll Abg Turned Head25inch Kestner 214 Antique Doll C1910 On Orig.body W/antique Costume-great CondAntique Simon & Halbig 949 Doll Beautiful Htf 15" SizeOutstanding 21" Kammer & Reinhardt 126 Antique Character Flirty Baby Doll-sweet! Rare Antique Doll Simon & Halbig Bisque Asian Child 1199 Restored GermanAntique German Large Bisque Doll Head W/eyes By Kestner-marked Jdk 257-look!Kh Germany Bisque Head Ball Jointed Composition Body Doll Needs Repair AntiqueCharming Kestner 174 All-orginal Antique 10" Petite German Bisque Child Doll HtfSmall Lot Of Antique Victorian Dolls Clothes For Bisque Doll Hats Dresses Etc*gorgeous Brown-eyed* 28" Kammer & Reinhardt Antique German Doll So Pretty C1900Early 19.5" Antique China Lady Doll With Deep Modeling All Antique Just PreciousAntique Original French Cotton Corset For Jumeau, Bru, Steiner, Eden Bebe Doll^ Ltd Doll Stamp & Antique 21" Armand Marseille Bisque Shoulder Head Doll #370Antique Original Silk Taffeta Jacket For French Fashion DollKammer & Reinhardt Simon & Halbig #121 - Character Baby - Orig Body Finish - K*rWonderful Ernst Heubach German Pot Doll €Antique Miniature Black Bisque Head Doll 4/0Heinrich Handwerck Mold 109 , Adorable 20 In. Doll . *gorgeous* 27" Max Handwerck/schoenau & Hoffmeister Rare Antique German Doll!Ltd Doll Stamp & Antique 18" Heinrich Handwerck Simon & Halbig Bisque Head DollLtd Doll Stamp & Antique Armand Marseille 15" Bisque Head My Dream Baby Doll 341Antique Original Dress For French Or German Doll 20-21"Heubach Coquette Doll Bisque Intaglio Eyes Miniature 10490 ElsbethAntique Doll-bisque-#150-5 Inch-girl-germany?china?nr!* 12" Antique Victorian Era Doll. Brown Eyes, Open Mouth/ Teeth. Leather Body *24" Antique Bisque A M Queen Louise Doll Blue Sleep Eyes Orig B J Compo BodyAntique German Bisque/porcelain Bathing Beauty Half Doll 3 1/2"Antique Doll-unis France 60-bisque Head-compbody-bebe Entierement Articule-15 InSimon + Halbig ~mold 1000 ~ Antique Head, Vintage Unders ~ 17" ~ Red Mohair WigAntique Kammer & Reinhardt K * R 100 19" Bisque Head Doll Excellent 18" Kestner Antique C1900 Victorian German Bisque-head Doll Leather Body Gorgeous 20" Bahr & Proschild 585 Baby Doll German Child All Antique So Sweet!*** 14" Kestner Doll. Ball Jointed Body, Brown Sleep Eyes, 2 Upper Teeth ***Gorgeous Antique Bisque Head Kestner K1 German Doll Christmas Angel Fairy 12" Old Antique C.1905 German Bisque Character Doll GermanyAntique German S&h Bisque Head Doll Compo Body 27 1/2" Tall Glass Eyes14” At Little Kittenel And 17” K&r €Marked Large German Gebruder Heubach?? Tlc Piano Baby In Shoe13” Antique Character Doll By Gebruder Heubach - From Theriault's Auction20" Antique German Apple Cheeked Parian Doll, Perfect Bisque On Original Body NrAntique 15" Bisque Head Composition Doll A&m Armand Marseille 1894 Dep GermanStunning Large Tete Jumeau 26"~closed Mouth~beautiful Long Human Hair Wig~Huge And Sweet 30" Antique China Lady Doll Wearing Fabulous Gown!*attractive*28" Simon Halbig German Doll In A Spectacular Antique Gown!

Recent News: Bisque Dolls

Source: Google News

redbankgreen, October 31st

11.02 - Open Ceramics at Thompson Park Come to the park's Creative Arts Center and choose from a large selection of bisque fired pottery pieces to glaze and make your own. Cost is 6 dollars per hour plus price of bisque ware; cash or check only. Pieces...Read more

redbankgreen, October 31st

11.02 - Open Ceramics at Thompson Park Come to the park's Creative Arts Center and choose from a large selection of bisque fired pottery pieces to glaze and make your own. Cost is 6 dollars per hour plus price of bisque ware; cash or check only. Pieces...Read more

redbankgreen, October 31st

11.02 - Open Ceramics at Thompson Park Come to the park's Creative Arts Center and choose from a large selection of bisque fired pottery pieces to glaze and make your own. Cost is 6 dollars per hour plus price of bisque ware; cash or check only. Pieces...Read more

redbankgreen, October 30th

It took him all of one day to add chicken noodle and tomato basil bisque to his menu. We have been grateful ..... Bring your favorite doll to meet 'Rebecca Rubin,' an American Girl historic character who grew up in New York in 1914. The tea party will...Read more

Art and a view are the focus of this Ritz-Carlton condo
Baltimore Sun, October 30th

Three Lladro figurines, along with a bisque doll covered in satin and feathers, sit atop the table next to a contemporary lamp with a light brown base and a rectangular cream shade. This vignette sets the tone for the home's transitional furnishings in...Read more

redbankgreen, October 27th

11.02 - Open Ceramics at Thompson Park Come to the park's Creative Arts Center and choose from a large selection of bisque fired pottery pieces to glaze and make your own. Cost is 6 dollars per hour plus price of bisque ware; cash or check only. Pieces...Read more

Historical Treasure: 'Over the Hills,' a classic doll's story
Terre Haute Tribune Star, October 25th

Storybook dolls are tiny, from only 3 ½” to 7” in height. They were created by Nancy Ann Abbott and were first produced in painted bisque from 1936 to 1947, and from 1948 to the early 1960 in plastic. They were lavishly costumed in the best fabrics and...Read more

Tale of Alabama Indestructible Dolls fascinating part of Roanoke history
The Birmingham News - al.com, October 10th

Ella Louise Guantt, who would later marry Samuel Swainswright "Bud" Smith, became a doll inventor by accident in 1897, when a neighbor girl named Verna Pitts broke her porcelain bisque doll and came to "Miss Ella" for help. Ella, who loved children ...Read more