Dolls have been made from white porcelain since the 18th century. The glazed versions of these antique dolls are generally referred to as china dolls, while the unglazed ones are called bisque dolls. In recent years, the interest in antique china dolls has spurred a resurgence in porcelain doll production, which, since the 1970s, has emphasized fine detailing and high levels of craftsmanship. These standards apply to porcelain dolls in modern dress as well as those styled after traditional characters wearing vintage attire.
Unlike antique china dolls, which were meant to be played with, contemporary porcelain dolls are often produced explicitly as collectors' items. Some popular porcelain dolls are designed with a certain genre in mind, like the many bridal dolls in white dresses with flowing veils. Others are sculpted in the likeness of familiar celebrities, such as Princess Diana, Florence Nightingale, or Marilyn Monroe, as well as classic literary or film characters, like Prissy from “Gone with the Wind.”
While some well-established ceramics companies, including Royal Doulton and House of Nisbet, ventured into the collectible doll market in the 1980s, many were also made in short runs by individual producers. Today, modern porcelain dolls are often created by artisans who handcraft each part, either producing very small editions of a certain doll or treating each doll as a custom project. Names like Wendy Lawton or Michael & Lynne Roche are known among doll collectors for their short runs of uniquely detailed dolls.