Collectors and little girls alike treasure porcelain dolls, which are also known as china dolls. These classic playthings feature elegant and beautifully glazed faces, which seem to softly glow, as well as highly fashionable and richly detailed costumes.
Porcelain is a hard white clay known for its fineness and strength. Discovered in ancient China, this ceramic material proved so useful, particularly for dinnerware, it spread all over the world and was nicknamed after its country of origin. When it comes to dolls, glazed porcelain is referred to as china, while unglazed porcelain is called bisque.
By the 19th century, porcelain had become the favored material for doll heads, and starting in the 1830s, high-quality china dolls hit the market. Most of these were made in cent...
Antique German-made china dolls usually have black molded hair and blue eyes. The very oldest have high foreheads and hair parted in the middle, smoothed down into rows of curls or curls around the ears. These dolls also had sloping shoulders, which were suited for the low-cut gowns in fashion at the time, and the dolls with legs made before 1860 wore flat-soled shoes.
Between 1850 and 1870, porcelain dolls crowned with the extravagant hairstyles worn by Parisians were all the rage. After 1870, the molded hair was replace with wigs, which were thought to be more natural in appearance. In the 1880s and 1890s, these dolls tended to feature bushy hair with bangs covering the forehead, smug-seeming features that appear almost too small for their faces, and stocky necks.
As a material for a child’s toy, though, porcelain was never ideal. It was easily chipped and would shatter if the doll’s head landed on the floor. Thus, by the early 20th century, new composition materials and, eventually, plastics largely replaced porcelain for most dolls.
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