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."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Regal Beauty of Parian Dolls

The Kestner porcelain company belonged to those few that created the most outstanding doll heads, It is not to be assumed that these heads were manufactured by a small and insignificant porcelain factory. Most of the heads in this post are from the Borgfedlt collection...Lydia Richter

Kestner shoulder head with modelled ornament comb, and extravagantly painted blouse with modelled collar, frills and bow. Blue glass eyes and feathery eyebrows, closed mouth with contour and red dividing line ca. 1880

Until today, it was not definite who in Europe the first to manufacture porcelain doll heads was. The Royal Porcelain Manufacture (KPM) Meissen was one of the earliest producers. Initially the first dolls were produced as byproducts and only test models. At that time, Meissen made porcelain dishware and extravagant artistic porcelain.
In eighteen forty, the first porcelain doll heads were produced commercially. Meissen produced head with elegant lady faces which differed from the later little girl doll faces.

Bisque shoulder head attributed to "Kestner", modelled costume hood, three rowed gold colored necklaceand blouse upper part with bows, characteristic Kestner's one stroke eyebrows, closed mouth with dark red dividing line, ca. 1885

Bisque shoulder head attributed to "Kestner", modelled bonnet with flower trimming and bow. ca.1885

Often frills and flowers were added to the dolls. Yet they weren’t called proper toy dolls and not suitable for children. They were still ornamental porcelain that pleased the eye. Some small children were given these dolls as presents. The precious doll was kept safe until the child had attained the right age and necessary maturity to appreciate the doll. As a result, many of these dolls remain today.

The ladies home sewing companion - a parian pincushion doll

" Dresden Gentleman"

Alt, Beck and Gottschalk ca. 1870

ABG "Empress Augusta" a portrait doll.. bisque shoulder head with modelled on jewelry, modelled blouse upper part with blue stripe (also found in pink) modelled black cross
Ca. 1880 Thuringia Germany

Child posing with "Limbach" stone bisque doll with modelled bonnet
wax and cloth body with celluloid forearms... ca. early 1900

"Kestner" China Head with flat top hair style

By 1850 manufactures began to realize that porcelain heads with all of their beauty and strong glossiness seemed unnatural and were thus not perfect. They directed their attention towards an especially fine, white, dull, and transparent type of porcelain: which was called Parian.

Lowbrow style china shoulder heads, possibly Hertwig..late 1800's

Alt, Bech and Gottschalck parian "Highland Mary" ca. 1870

Beautiful and demure Parian child...unknown manufacturer

The English developed the first parian-ware in the 1840s, and exhibited parian-ware figures at the London International Exhibition in 1851. These figures proved to be very popular, inspiring the Germans to develop their own version of parian porcelain. Soon the many competing German Thuringian companies began making doll heads and limbs in the unglazed white porcelain bisque. They found that they could achieve a higher degree of detail in the modeling than had been possible with the glazed china pieces. Therefore parian dolls can be found with more elaborate hairstyles and in greater variety than the glazed china dolls. There were so many porcelain factories in Thuringia, that it is often very difficult to tell which company made a specific doll. They copied each other's popular models, and employees drifted back and forth between factories.

Alt, Beck and Gottschalk ca. 1870

Parian with Dresden decorations..unknown manufacturer. Ca. late 1800's

"Simon and Halbig" Parian Lady ca, 1860

Parian nurse maid and child; doll house dolls ca. 1880

" Little mothers playing house"

Beautiful "Kling" shoulder head made from bisque porcelain; blue paperweight glass eyes, leather body with bisque forearms ca. 1880

"The Dresden Gentleman" Dornheim, Koch and Fischer...parian shouder head, hair
styled modelled as a young cavalier...ca. 1865
Young lady made of bisque porcelain C.F. Kling...Thuringia, Germany, ca. 1880

The period of the exquisite Parian dolls was quite short because they were still not suitable for child’s play. In addition, their white marble skin color was unnatural so the porcelain was painted flesh-like tone and then was not called Parian but bisque.
Many Parian dolls are around today because owners knew of their fragility and kept them safe. Children could only play with them as they matured. That is a good thing. I believe these dolls were some of the most beautiful dolls produced.


  1. Beautyful dolls, Marta.

    Es una suerte para nosotros, que no se les permitiera a los niños jugar con ellas. pero cruel para esas pobres criaturas. "¡Mira que muñeca más preciosa! La guardaremos en un cajón hasta que tengas pretendientes."

    Es dramático que fueran tan preciosas pero tan frágiles. La paradoja es que esa fragilidad, es la que ahora las haga tan preciadas y valoradas. Siempre pienso en todas las que se habran destruido a lo largo de esa época. Eso que estoy seguro de que las niñas de esa época, eran más cuidadosas con estas muñecas que las que hoy en día juegan con Barbies.

    Muy interesante post, Marta.

    Gracias y besos.

    ¡No puedo creer que sea tu primer comentario!

  2. What beautiful objects, real works of art. And I love the Little Mothers photo.

  3. Siempre me han fascinado las muñecas parian, me parecen bellísimas con esas caritas tan blancas!! La colección que nos muestras en esta entrada es sensacional!! Un besazo enorme y un millón de gracias por compartir con todos nosotros estos conocimientos que tienes sobre el mundo de las muñecas!!

  4. Muchas gracias a todos..Estas muñecas me fascinan. Son verdaderas obras de arte, me fue dificil decidir cuales demonstrar pues todas son preciosas.

    Thank you all for sharing my love for these dolls, they surely are unique and we are so lucky there are still many to be found intact.


  5. Dear Martha, how I wish, for once, take in my hands one of these dolls ...
    I'd be a happy child!
    Is really impossible to elect the most beautiful
    Mini hugs, Flora

  6. You've managed once again to completely draw me into your lovely doll world Marta!!
    I THANKYOU!!!!


  7. Your posts are always so interesting and you find such wonderful images. I specially like the pin cushion doll. Pan x

  8. Flora, Nan, Pan...How wonderful to hear from you!
    So glad you like this post. These dolls are enchanting, so beautiful and delicate. This was a very rewarding post to research, I was so glad I found such lovely dolls to show you.

  9. Beautiful and I love all the different hairstyles.

  10. Dear Marta, I like your blog so much. My interest in old dolls startet only a few months ago - but it grows every day. I want to show you two doll heads: Please follow me to my first post :
    I was asked how old they are but I don't know. "She" looks like your Augusta but without decoration and who could be "Him". Could it be that they are also from nearly 1880 - made by Alt, Beck & Gottschalk? I'm not sure. Perhaps you have an idea. And could you please also have a look on my header - they boy with the rose. I don't know from where and how old he is.
    Thank you so much!!! Best wishes from Germany, Carola