What is a Doll?

How long have we had this love affair with Dolls?

Pearls of Wisdom:

New World Dictionary describes a doll as - "a child's toy, puppet, marionette, etc. made to resemble a human being."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dolls of the 19th century..The Dawning of Porcelain (part 3 Victorian era)

During the Victorian era and into the early 20th century the history of dolls was connected with the lives of the middle class and wealthy children who would have owned them. Its my purpose in creating this blog to portray dolls which mark the stages of developing history. But regrettably, of the Victorian period, only a few items remain from the rag and bone toy box of the very poor. Underprivileged children of the time, were forced to make do with whatever lay at hand; A mutton bone, wrapped in a rag, would make a much loved doll for a poor child.
As doll-making art is predominantly from the Victorian and Edwardian periods, these dolls are the more procurable by collectors. Mass production methods were becoming commonplace by the end of the century, so a large number of dolls of all different types were surfacing at the same time.
In this post I will show only samples of China, and Bisque including the beautiful French Bebes, and Fashion Dolls. All of these dolls will be covered individually in later chapters including their makers.
For now, my objective is to show that these dolls were available at the time of Queen Victoria’s reign, but only to the very wealthy.


Wax Dolls

In addition to wooden dolls, wax dolls were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, and they were also a contemporary of the papier mâché doll. . Munich was a major manufacturing center for wax dolls, although the earliest wax dolls found by collectors tend to be the poured wax dolls made in England. This was after the demise of the wooden doll industry from 1840 through the remainder of the 19th century. Although pressed wax dolls were made before this time for the very wealthy.

Beautiful "Pierotti Poured Wax Child Doll" ca. 19th century

English Poured Wax early 19th century

French Wax Infant Doll mid 19th century

Family of Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

The Young Queen Victoria became a symbol of the 1840’s subdued and dove-colored decade. She spent her time most domestically filling the palaces with nurseries. It was in this quiet and rather dowdy atmosphere that the early porcelain dolls made their debut.

China Heads

Porcelain became popular at the beginning of the 19th century. Its a name used generically to refer to both china and bisque dolls. China is glazed, whereas bisque is unglazed. Dolls are named after the variety of hairstyles they wore--be it a "Covered Wagon" style (hair flat on top with sausage curls around the head, 1840s), an "Alice in Wonderland" (molded head band, 1850s) or the "Dolly Madison" (curls all over and a molded ribbon)--whatever was fashionable at a certain time.China heads were replaced by heads made of bisque in the 1860s.

Conta Boheme China doll ca. 1870. Elaborately styled hair. Wears hand-sewn lawn white dress with antique lace.

Kestner China Doll with "Covered Wagon" hairstyle from my own collection... ca. 1860. Original antique dress, original cloth body with individually stitched fingers.
Germany, France and Denmark started creating china heads dolls in the 1840's they are often identified by their hairstyles.

Hertle and Schwab China Doll "Lowbrow Hairstyle" ca. 1890

Child portrait with a "Lowbrow "China head doll ca. 19th century

Parian Dolls

If there is no color added to the bisque and it is left white and unglazed, the doll is sometimes referred to as a "Parian" doll.

Alt Beck Gottschalk...Lady Parian with Blue Scarf. Antique lace dress, pierced ears ca. 1880

Baby Stuart by Gebruder Heubach ca. 1910. Molded white bonnet, original white organdy gown.

Elegant Alt Beck Gottschalk Lady Parian ca. 1880

German and French Bisque Dolls:

The best known group of antique dolls are the German and French bisque dolls. Bisque, which is fired twice with color added to it after the first firing, looked more like skin than china.

Simon and Halbig on a K*R composition body

Beautiful Kestner Doll ca. 19th century

These dolls were produced from the 1840s until after World War I, with the amount of production and number of manufacturers increasing significantly around 1860.

K*R Doll, Simon and Halbig bisque head
Sunday Visit...German Bisque Doll

Victorian Girl Portrait ca. 19th century

The French Fashion Doll:

The years from 1860 through 1890 were dominated by fashion dolls. These dolls were made to represent ladies, and they were dressed in exquisite, elaborate reproductions of current fashions.

Collection of French Fashion Dolls from the Carmel Doll Shop

Bru French Fashion with a wood body courtesy of Thierault

Victorian French Fashions...by Huret, Jumeau and Bru

The French Bebe:

The "bebe" was popular in the 1880s, and it has become a highly sought after doll today. The bebe, first made in the 1850s, was unique from its predecessors because it depicted a younger girl. Until then, most dolls were representations of adults.

French Bebes...Bru and Jumeau

Young Girl and Her Doll...Emile Mullier

...with Bru doll

Asian Dolls Vignette by Bru... French Bebes ca. 19th century

Stunning Bru Bebe, notice the huge almond shape eyes. Jumeau and Bru dolls are noted for their beautiful faces. ca. 19th century French Bebe.

Bebe Jumeau ca. 1880

Remple and Breitung, Sonnenberg Germany ca.1890

Eventually, Bébés would overtake fashion dolls in popularity, and would lead to their demise. French Bébés, made by the master doll makers Jumeau, Bru, Steiner, Rohmer and others would have their ascendancy from the 1860s to the 1880s, followed by the German doll makers, who basically took over the industry with their quality, but lower priced products in the 1890s.


  1. Fantastic information and the pictures are wonderful, thank you so much for researching Marta, I really am enjoying all this history.

  2. siempre me gustan tus entradas, pero esta.....has tocado uno de mis puntos debiles,me encantan!!!!!todas son preciosas pero las Jumeau, para mi, son ¨la joya de la corona¨supongo que me entiendes , y ademas una explicacion muy buena, besos

  3. Hi Marta, The Bru bebe dolls are so beautiful! And the workmanship on the one wax doll is unbelivable. Thanks for the information...Julian

  4. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. It makes it all worthwhile.

  5. Muy buena información, como siempre!!1
    Las muñecas de cera... creo que me gustaban más antes de ver este bebé, tan... tan difunto.

  6. a great post with a lot of wonderfull pictures, thanks for your investigation and demonstration Marta :)

  7. Beautiful post, Marta.
    Me sorprende que estas muñecas fabricadas con esos materiales, aparentemente tan frágiles, hayan sobrevivido hasta hoy. I love the fashion dolls. Las que representan adultos, con esos maravillosos vestidos en miniatura. And what can I say about those tiny borzois! You know me...
    By the way, the one doll of your own collection, it´s very sweet. To own one of those dolls it must be like to own a relic!
    Well done, Marta!
    Thank you! I love your posts.

  8. Thank you Alberto, you are so kind. I knew you'd like the Borzois.
    Yes...my "Covered Wagon China" is very old and all original. She is a big girl too, 26".

  9. Oh Marta I've missed reading your blog while I was away!! It is a breath of fresh air!
    Great post as always. You lucky lucky lady to own that magnificent Kestner China and in her original clothing no less!! AHHHHH I'm green with envy, lol!!

  10. Son preciosas.. por cierto me encanta la música de tu blog.


  11. Tienes un meme en mi blog igual te apetece hacerlo.


  12. Wonderful! Love the old photos.

  13. Thank you all so much for the encouraging comments. Sometimes I feel my posts are too long, but I like to cover as much of the history as possible. Any feedback you have will be most appreciated.

  14. Goodmorning Marta, Thank's for telling me the name of the vine and also your vist. I will try and get some rest. But it seems I always find my self wanting to go outside and do some weeding or a little something. Have a good weekend...Julian

  15. Hola Marta!!!
    He quedado anonadada con las imágenes de tu blog...no así con el idioma...cuánto te agradecería que instales un traductor para poder leer sobre algo que me apasiona.
    Dese ya muchas gracias.
    Un abrazo desde Tandil, Argentina

  16. Querida Maria Cristina, cuanto te agradesco sigas mi blog. He querido instalar un translador, pero no he podido tener exito.
    Muchas gracias por tu comentario, y tratare de resolver este problema.
    Un beso muy grande

  17. Mil gracias Marta!!!
    De a poco iré leyendo tus post, este me ha resultado muy ameno e interesante...y gracias por aceptar mi sugerencia.
    Un abrazo y mis cariños!
    Muy buen fin de semana!

  18. My goodness, that first doll was so lifelike! I have an antique china head doll--but sadly, only the head. I attached her to a reproduction body and I just love her!

  19. Thank you Heidi for your comment!You will find a lot of china head dolls with newer bodies. Its not unusual. Sometimes the little owner of such a doll would fell ill, and take her dollie to bed with her. After the illness passed mother would usually burn the cloth body and make a new one to attach the head too. I am sure your doll is beautiful!

  20. Great job, Marta! All beautiful to look at. Queen Victoria was born in 1837 and it's a wonderful thing that she so enjoyed her dollies during those 1840's. She particularly loved a rather large collection of little "penny woodens". In spite of all their beauty, the "fancy" dolls for the rich, I still prefer the pathetic little, cloth attempts of the not so rich. I'll be looking forward to that post too!


  21. I found a doll really old embedded in my great grandmothers adobe house wall when we tore it down it stands about 2ft tall its hard hard plastic has no hair and no clothes but it has a bone clenched in its hand would you know anything about this type of old doll? you can email me back at babytiger64@hotmail.com