A porcelain doll is a doll made entirely or partially of porcelain. They are characterized by their realistic look and silky surface. They had their peak of popularity between 1860 and 1900 with French and German dolls. Porcelain dolls are collectible, and antique dolls can be worth thousands of dollars. French and German dolls of the 19th century were intended for children’s play, but modern porcelain dolls are predominantly made directly for the collectible market.
When collectors refer to antique dolls, they make a distinction between glazed porcelain dolls and enameled porcelain dolls.
Most porcelain dolls have a porcelain head and a body made of another material. Enameled porcelain dolls show a very realistic skin tone. The porcelain head is attached to a body made of cloth or leather, or wood, or paper mache or cardboard, a mixture of pulp, sawdust, glue, and similar materials. The bodies of the dolls are rarely also made of porcelain because of their fragility and weight. Porcelain dolls usually have glass eyes. They vary widely in size, from full size to less than an inch.
When one is manufactured, the raw ceramic materials are molded at over 1260 °C. The head is then painted to create the skin tones and facial features, being fired again after each layer. The old German and French dolls of the 19th century were made as toys, but the modern ones are predominantly produced directly for the collector’s market.
The first porcelain dolls were made predominantly in Germany between 1840 and 1880. They were made with Chinese porcelain, giving them a characteristic glossy look, and the hair was initially painted over, being the autoperipatetikos and the Chinese dolls in general an example of this. The Parisian dolls were made in Germany with white enameled porcelain from 1850 onwards.
French and German porcelain dolls dominated the market from 1860, and their production continued until after World War I. These dolls wore wigs, usually made of mohair or with human hair. Between approximately 1860 and 1890 they were fashionable dolls, made to represent young girls, so that girls from rich families could play at dressing them in contemporary fashion. These dolls came from French companies such as Jumeau, Bru, Gaultier, Rohmer, Simone and Huret, although their heads were often made in Germany. In the Choiseul Pass, in the Paris area, an industry flourished making clothes and accessories for the dolls.
By the end of the 19th century, almost all the dolls represented young girls, which was a big change because until then dolls used to represent girls. The most popular were the babies of doll makers such as Jumeau, Bru, Steiner and Gaultier, who were very popular between 1860 and 1880. They were high quality dolls. In the 1890s, German doll manufacturers launched less expensive dolls on the market, increasing sales by making them somewhat more accessible. In response, the French doll makers began making dolls as a consortium under the name Société Française de Fabrication de Bébés et Jouets (S.F.B.J.). But these latter dolls were often of inferior quality.
German dolls with a girl’s appearance were the predominant ones between 1890 and 1930. The former are often referred to as dolly-faced dolls and were produced by companies such as Armand Marseille, Simon & Halbig, K*R, and Kestner. Many came from the region of Thuringia, which has the natural clay deposits used in the manufacture of the dolls. The dominant companies of the early 20th century, such as Kämmer and Reinhardt, Heubach and Kestner, began to make dolls with a childlike appearance more realistic and expressive, and were later nicknamed dolly-faced.
Cheap porcelain dolls known as penny dolls became common from the late 19th century until the 1930s. They were inarticulate and made from a single piece of porcelain. Some German manufacturers like Kestner also made dolls entirely of porcelain but articulated in necks, arms and legs.
Porcelain was the most common material for European doll heads until the beginning of the 20th century, when papier-mâché (or composite) gained favor. The production of cardboard dolls was strong in the United States. The Kewpie dolls of the early 20th century were still made of porcelain, and celluloid was also a popular material then, despite the danger of fire.
Porcelain dolls were made as commercial toy products in Germany rather than for the collector’s market until the late 1930’s and Japan also produced many small porcelain dolls in the 1920’s and 1930’s, often painted cold in oil, so they were easily unpainted afterwards.
Around the same time, just before World War II, the hobby of collecting and reproducing dolls began in the U.S., first making the heads from the molds of the 1860s and 1870s, with doll artists like Emma Clear. The handcrafted reproduction of porcelain dolls grew slowly as a hobby in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, expanding from the 1970s and especially from the 1980s to Europe, Great Britain and Australia, via companies that supplied molds, offcuts and accessories such as Seeley’s and Wandke, which created a large-scale network of classes and seminars. Another branch of art based on the old porcelain doll also emerged in the United States during the 1940s: the “artist dolls” which were original creations designed and molded without copying the models of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These dolls are made specifically for the adult collector’s market.
In the 1980s the porcelain dolls had a resurgence with the growth of the collector’s market and the production in the last years of the 20th century began to move to China. China produced many porcelain dolls at affordable prices that were sold in discount departments and chain stores often as decorative objects. This production was on an industrial scale instead of the hobby on a smaller scale. Mass-produced porcelain dolls can still be found around the world in Chinese stores and stores. Also industrial but more expensive, the porcelain dolls can also be purchased by catalog purchase or in gift stores or even in exclusive toy stores as decorations for girls’ rooms. The reproduction of old models and artist’s models are also maintained but the hobby is not as big as it was in the 1980s.
The people of Barbastro have had the opportunity to enjoy an original and complete exhibition
The history of dolls goes back to prehistoric times, when they represented magical religious objects that, over the centuries, began to attract the attention of children, who turned into toys everything they found around them: a piece of wood, a pebble, a piece of cloth filled with bran or sawdust … However, many times they had a very defined shape, which reminds us of today’s dolls, such as those found in the tomb of a girl in a Roman excavation in Tarragona, as recalled by Encarna Latorre in the conference on ‘History of porcelain dolls’ that she offered a few days ago in Barbastro, coinciding with the opening of the Exhibition of Porcelain Dolls that has been open in the Entrearcos Cultural Center of the City of Vero.
The first manufactured dolls began to be made in small family workshops in the 17th century, mainly in England, using materials such as wood, or, later, paper mache -which made manufacturing costs cheaper- and even wax. Little by little the tradition of the dolls spread throughout Europe and in some cases their purpose had little to do with that of serving as a toy: in the absence of fashion magazines or model parades, it was the dolls known as ‘Ladys’ who wore the fashion designs for the ladies of the high bourgeoisie who, in that way, could choose their orders from the dressmakers. Others, however, served as steelworkers or to store sewing instruments; there were some special ones to place on top of pianos; and others even had a light bulb inside.
In the 19th century, the so-called “Golden Age” of porcelain dolls began, a period of splendor and popularity that would last until World War II, when the factories that had been in splendor in Germany, England and France gradually disappeared. And, at the same time, many small industries that lived from the accessories for the dolls also disappeared: the artisans that elaborated the glass eyes, the tailors and dressmakers that made the suits and dresses, the hatters for the headdresses, shoemakers to fit their feet…, even carpenters in charge of making the miniature furniture, a whole world around the porcelain dolls that were replaced by others of more modern invoice and more affordable for the whole population.
Nowadays, porcelain dolls are recovering their moment of splendor, although not so much as an object destined to the game of the girls, but as an element of collection that has made that some specimens reach a high price in the market, either for their good state of conservation, or for some special characteristics or for their rarity for the few preserved specimens of each model. The porcelain dolls -many of them with factory identification on the neck- are in great demand, are protagonists of forums and have become a collector’s item, a ‘fever’ that has also attacked the famous ‘Nancys’ of the seventies or has allowed the recovery of the famous ‘Mariquita Perez’.
The Cultural Center Entrearcos de Barbastro has been the scene of an attractive Exhibition of Porcelain Dolls that has gathered more than 150 different models, among originals, restored or reproduction, made of different materials such as porcelain, celluloid, wood, kaolin and even of fabric covered with painted plaster… as is the case of the oldest copy of the collection.
The exhibition, one of the events with which Entrearcos commemorates its 30th anniversary, has brought together dolls from very different periods and styles. The well-known ‘Mariquita Pérez’, the elegant mannequin dolls, character dolls, sweet sleeping dolls -also called ‘pepones’- dressed in Christian clothes have not been missing… a great variety of pieces contributed by Rosario Juan, collector of porcelain dolls and responsible for the Restoration Workshop of the Barbastro center, and by Encarna Latorre and Pilar Mengual, as well as the teacher in love with the charm that these dolls maintain, some of which are more than two centuries old.
There have been many people from Barbastro who have visited this Exhibition of Porcelain Dolls that have reminded more than one, especially them, of old times and have made them miss those times in which they had as a playmate some doll equal or similar to those exposed in the exhibition. In fact, more than one will have searched in old trunks, chests or closets until they found a copy of those dolls that in their time were made to play, but that today are true works of art collection.
A good quality or limited edition porcelain doll increases in value as the years go by, becoming in some cases museum pieces. Maybe they have been inherited or maybe we collect them ourselves, either way it is very important to take care of them and keep them clean. In this post, we share with you some recommendations to clean porcelain dolls.
The first step to clean a porcelain doll is to put the doll in a sock (better without a dress), so we can vacuum all the dust without damaging or tearing off soft or small parts. If the doll is very big we can use a window screen or tulle.
Another way to remove dust from an old doll, especially dust from hair and delicate parts, is with a hair dryer or compressed air. In the eyes we can use a fine brush.
The possibility of washing the dress of the porcelain doll depends on the material, the antiquity or the details it has such as feathers, beads or lace. If we prefer we can send it dry cleaned. If it only has dust we can use the window screen to vacuum it with tranquility. If we decide to wash it we will be careful not to use chlorine or any strong abrasive.
To clean the hair of the porcelain doll is better to avoid water directly, in many cases the glue softens and the doll loses hair. It is better to try to clean it with a humid cloth or taking care that the water doesn’t reach the base. Using compressed air or the dryer in many cases is enough along with brushing.
To clean the porcelain parts first we will make a test in a non visible place. If it does not come off, we can continue with care. We will use a cotton ball moistened in simple water to clean the face, hands and legs of the wrist. If the stains do not go away we can use a little bit of mild soap or baby shampoo. As with water we will do a small test first. If it is not damaged we will continue with the whole piece.
Once we clean our porcelain doll we will use a little transparent and colorless nail polish. Carefully varnish the lips, eyes and other parts that may become unpainted. If the eyes are plastic we must take care that the varnish does not damage them, doing a small test. We will let the varnish dry well before dressing the wrist.
Following some of these recommendations to clean a porcelain doll will help you to extend the life of your collection dolls.
Generations after World War II did not know about porcelain dolls. Momarandu.com talked to the only artisan in the country specialized in the subject: Cristina De Lucchetti. The dolls she makes are unique pieces of remarkable realism that have earned her international recognition.
“Black dolls bring good luck”, my mother said, and I could never know where she got it from. For her, that was sacred, and for me, who adored my black candombera doll, with its flowing blouse and wide striped pants, red and white, too. But my doll was not made of porcelain but of plastic, and my mother had never met them. I only think I have heard my grandmother say that she had seen one who knows where.
What happens is that after the Second World War, porcelain dolls were no longer manufactured: “The bombings destroyed the factories and the moulds,” Cristina De Lucchetti tells momarandu.com from her workshop in Buenos Aires.
She knows well what it is like to hold a porcelain doll in your arms: she makes them as before, but today. And the main characteristic of her creations is that each doll is unique, because although they come from the same matrix, the expression and accessories are placed by their creator. Cristina’s dolls are amazing because of the realism they achieve.
As a child, she never held one of these dolls in her hands – “I’m from 52”, she says – nor did she ever caress one, until the moment she began to give them life, first in her mind and then with her hands. Those same hands that once played a dirty trick on her, gave her back the opportunity to create those dolls.
Cristina De Lucchetti is not an improvised one, nor is she one of the many porcelain figure workshop teachers that exist in Argentina. She is the only one in the country with a thorough specialization, something that has earned her international recognition.
– How does she come to make porcelain dolls, asked momarandu.com, and she let out a simple: “By chance”. However, distrustful of chance, I insisted, then I knew that her hand, the one that she handles best, the one that gives shape to her imagination, had been seriously injured after some repairs that she had done in her house. I also knew that she had undergone an operation that turned out to be a case of malpractice. And then another operation. Cristina was left with her creative hand, practically immobilized.
Without giving up, she began to take a course in porcelain figures, with a lot of effort and with the fear of not recovering, until one day she saw a doll and asked her teacher: “Is it possible that we can make one like it? Her teacher smiled and said, “No, that’s impossible! Perhaps that is what drove her to go to the edge of the possibilities and bet on her almost total recovery.
De Lucchetti is the only artisan of porcelain dolls in the country that has been perfected in the United States and belongs to the International Foundation of Doll – Makers, and the Doll Artisan Guild. She has more than 25 seminars and a master’s degree (1997).
The origin of porcelain dolls must be sought in Germany and France, around 1860: “Their figures began to immortalize famous women,” says Cristina.
– So why is specialization today in the United States, momarandu.com consulted, to which De Luchetti explained that “there was a time when it began with the Fashion Doll, which were porcelain dolls used by European couturiers. On their bodies was placed the model of dress they designed, and then sent to their customers across the ocean. In other words, they used them as catalogs”. And he clarifies that “it’s been no more than fifteen years since the United States began to reproduce them again.
Cristina says that most of the orders they place with her are for her to make the doll in charge with the same face as someone else: “They send me photos by e-mail and ask me to make them a doll that looks just like the one in the photo, for example.
That’s when she has to explain that it can’t be done that way, that there is a previous mold that is bought in the United States, and then she works on each piece, which makes a “dry carving”, which gives them life. However, when you see the faces of Cristina’s dolls, they are so real, that you can understand why they were ordered.
Not many months ago, a piece of news, also coming from the United States, gave an account of the boom that this type of dolls had among women of good purchasing power, who had not been able to have children.
“I am asked for dolls from all over the world, even from Turkey”, he points out, however, that “it is in Argentina where I sell the most”, and explains why: “Many times I get a little angry with the sale abroad, because many of those possible clients, believe that because the dolls are made in Argentina, they should be almost given away”. And it is not like that, because Cristina must import the raw material, “and that costs a lot, there are taxes and transfers that must be paid, and everything is dollar price”.
Having a porcelain doll today is not like going to a toy store on Children’s Day and picking out something on the shelves. Porcelain dolls have become a cult object, and as such, their prices make them unaffordable for everyone.
“The ones that come to buy are usually husbands who want to entertain their wives on their anniversaries,” she says, “but let’s agree that they are people who already have their economy well taken care of,” says De Lucchetti.
The prices of each doll vary according to the wigs, the clothes and the work that each one of them carries. They are all sold at dollar prices, and you can get one for 100 for about $400.
When Cristina De Luchetti is asked why she perfected herself in porcelain dolls and not in other figures, she quickly says: “It is the dolls that adopted me. I love what I do. Each doll is like a child and I find it hard to let go of them.
And she confesses that when she creates a doll to order, it doesn’t hurt so much to give it up because she knows the customer is there; however, when she creates one simply out of desire, she feels pain when someone chooses it and takes it away.
“It’s the gestation outside the womb, I know someone might say this is unnatural…I don’t know… But I feel that way,” she says before thanking and hanging up the phone. On the other hand, I can imagine her among those beings that seem to have a life of their own, with those childish gestures and those childish looks so full of magic, that they look from another time.
Our regularly updated comparison of Antique Porcelain Dolls will help you choose the product that best suits your needs and budget.
In fact, this classification allows you to identify at a glance the best items, providing you with the main characteristics of each of them, as well as their prices, of course.
Finally, keep in mind that the stores that offer these antique porcelain Dolls are recognized for their reliability and trustworthiness.
To begin with, you must stop buying on impulse. Be reasonable: make several checks before validating your cart, check our comparison of the best antique porcelain dolls accurately, and don’t hesitate to trade with the sellers as well.
The following tips will help you buy antique porcelain dolls at the best price, and generally to make good business on the Internet in 2020, no matter what product you want.
What should we pay special attention to when buying an antique porcelain doll?
The first thing is to make sure it is antique. A porcelain doll can only be antique if it is at most from 1925-30. There are no later antique porcelain dolls. The materials were changing and maybe some of the manufacturers (very few) kept their industry dedicated to composition, or new plastics, but the biscuit molds ended up around that date. Of course, no porcelain doll factory in Europe operated after the beginning of World War II. Unfortunately, in this world the term “old” is used in a meaningless way many times, due to ignorance or colloquial language and it can lead to mistakes.
1. Is the wrist marked with the manufacturer’s marks or signs?
This is already a world of its own, we must know what kind of doll we are buying, and from which model as far as possible. There are an infinite number of publications, on paper and also online reference pages to be able to know more about the doll we are interested in. However, we already know that some of the best dolls were not marked, or were marked very late in the history of their manufacture, and some of the most beautiful and ancient dolls lack marks.
2. Does the porcelain have cracks, hair, restorations or other damage?
This is the most obvious thing to inspect, but to be sure we should use a light inside the doll’s head. The head should be translucent, any dark patches other than the plaster on the eyes may indicate restoration work.
Fine cracks or hair will also stand out best with the use of one.
If it is not possible to do this, because of the way the wig is glued or another reason, you can bring the light as close as possible to the porcelain and inspect it like this. It’s not a bad idea to check the biscuit with a magnifying glass to see the details that may escape us.
A doll with deterioration in the porcelain, especially in the face, loses almost all its value. However, a Gaultier with a hair or a fault will always be worth more objectively than an inferior brand doll in impeccable condition, we must assess everything before making our decision.
3. Have the eyes been replaced, are they suitable for the doll?
It is always preferable that the doll has its eyes, old, of origin, the appropriate ones to its model, and that they conserve their characteristics of sleepers or not, of crystal, with relief, etc. But it is not necessarily a problem if they have been replaced by suitable, old eyes, according to the doll. It is bad, however, that some eyes that should be sleeping or flirting do not work or have been replaced by other fixed ones.
The first thing is to make sure that it is old. A porcelain doll can only be old if it is at most from 1925-30. There are no later antique porcelain dolls. The materials were changing and maybe some of the manufacturers (very few) kept their industry dedicated to the composition, or new plastics, but the biscuit molds ended up around that date. Of course, no porcelain doll factory in Europe operated after the beginning of World War II. Unfortunately, in this world the term “old” is used in a meaningless way many times, due to ignorance or colloquial language and it can lead to mistakes.
4. Is the biscuit excessively smooth or unrelieved?
This may indicate that the wrist is a reproduction. Some older dolls had a very smooth biscuit to the touch, but never as perfect and super-smooth as today’s crystal smooth dolls. It always remains for us to look inside the head to see if they have an antique patina and to observe their general interior conditions.
Although the reproductions must be marked by the artist or craftsman, unfortunately there are many who copy the molds with fraudulent intention, and omit this step trying to pass the dolls as antique. An excessively smooth, “perfect”, lifeless biscuit is usually indicative of our collector’s instinct that something is not right.
5. If the dress is antique or the original, what is its condition and integrity?
It is almost impossible to make the distinction of original or antique dress, because the doll could be bought naked, or changed by its owner for example in 1870. However, it is normal that the so-called original clothing is always preferred, including shoes and accessories.
It should be in the best possible condition, inside and out, although it is ridiculous to pretend that natural and organic fabrics such as silk or cotton arrive unblemished and unbroken to our days, one hundred years later. In the case of dolls never taken out of the box it could be (it depends on where they have been kept and the voracity of moths and mice). Generally it is enough that the clothes are in an acceptable state: we always distrust of the perfection and the absolute cleanliness, it is that it cannot be if they are authentically old.
Ancient dresses must be handled with extreme care during inspection because there are fabrics such as silk, tulle or crêpe that can be left in our hands in pieces if they are authentically of the time. It even makes it difficult to undress or barefoot the doll for sale or purchase inspection.
6. And if the dress has been replaced, is it the right one for the doll?
Basically it should be dressed according to its type, model and age. A doll from China from 1860 with a newborn baby suit, or a girl from 1920 with an 18th century model, cannot be accepted. A little bit of common sense and general taste will tell us right away if things are as they should be. Fantasy (or rather nightmare) dresses with hideous shiny or printed synthetic fabrics, huge medieval hats that make no sense for this type of doll, buttons or plastic decorations or extravagant cuts will immediately draw our attention negatively.
Similarly, if we are looking for clothing for our doll, as a replacement for the dress or because we acquired it naked, all this should be taken into account. Natural fabrics, better antique fabrics and ornaments, suitable for the type of doll. A fashion must be dressed as an elegant lady of the time, a girl can wear another type of clothing, and so depending on each doll. There are many images and even patterns of origin where you can find the most appropriate clothing for each doll ancient.
7. Does the doll have a suitable body?
The basic thing we should look at is if the body corresponds, in size and “age” to the porcelain head. There are truly horrendous remixes between huge heads and tiny bodies, or porcelain heads on cardboard walker bodies from the 50’s… even, in the worst case, obviously reproduction dolls that have been embedded in an old body, whatever it is, to make them look completely old. It’s very sad!
A baby doll must carry a baby body, there are many models in which it is possible to know the type of body they carried. For example, the Handwerk composition babies or the little ragged body babies of A. Marseille, or the very imitated baby Kaiser with his baby body and crooked hand.
The baby dolls can have a wooden body and composition, a kid body, etc, but we will always make sure that it is the original one, or the right one within each type of doll and each manufacturer. In principle a French doll should have a French body, and a German doll a body of her nationality, unless we know that a specific manufacturer provided bodies to such and such a manufacturer from another country.
8. What is the condition of the body?
It is not true that the body is “worthless” or that only the porcelain head has objective value. A restored or badly damaged body also lowers the price of the doll, although it will always be better than a modern replacement body, or one with changed parts. We must see that it is not a Frankenstein monster type body, with legs of one type, arms of another or similar horrors!
The old original is always preferable, of course. Depending on the manufacturer or model the body also has a lot of value by itself, like the Steiner marked bodies, or those of the bigger babies and dolls, or the original marked goat bodies of a specific type of doll.
9. What is the quality of the painting of the doll’s details?
Not all manufacturers had the same quality, and not all artists were equally good. The age of the doll is not everything, nor is the delicacy of its porcelain. We must pay attention to whether the doll is well painted by the original artist, with the same eyelashes, the color of the cheeks equal and well colored, if the mouth is perfect or on the contrary is crooked or badly finished . A very small mignonette all bisque or doll house doll can be painted with a little more carelessness, in general, but in some of the best brands and models of baby or girl dolls it is impossible that the factory would allow them to leave with these defects. A crooked mouth or eyelashes that seem strange or badly made in a big brand or category doll has many points to be an imitation that we try to sneak.
10. Is the wig the right one?
The wig should be made of mohair or human/natural hair, and it is always desirable that the doll keeps the original. Unfortunately many times this delicate hair is damaged, attacked by moths or lost in part or completely.
We should then think about replacing it with an old and suitable wig, or if we cannot get one, with one of the excellent wigs made today in these materials. Never plastic, polyester or those horrendous shiny modern doll’s rings, which detract from the porcelain piece.
11. What is the overall impression that the doll gives us?
This point is more instinctive and a result of experience, but no less important. A “strange” doll immediately makes the expert collector, or the lover of antique dolls who has already had many in his hands, turn his nose upside down. It is not well finished, the head looks disproportionate, the body is not the right one, its hands do not fit us, or the face seems to us like a small child even though it is dressed as a woman… or on the contrary it is a piece that makes us sigh as soon as we see it and that even if it has some small defect or wear and tear due to age it moves our heart.
12. Is the price adjusted and realistic to the type and brand of the doll?
The market price is more or less the same everywhere, especially nowadays when we all have books and internet and there are many pages to consult. All of us who buy and sell antique dolls know more or less about what price each type oscillates and what can be right for each doll. A common model A.M. can be bought for around 250-400 euros depending on its condition and size, but a Jumeau in perfect condition, even naked, can cost more than 2000 without anyone getting their hands on it.
Let’s be wary of those unheard of bargains that we can’t believe… usually they are not credible. A doll of adequate value of about 800 euros cannot be sold for 50 in any way. It is one hundred percent a problematic piece, and almost certainly a better or worse reproduction to try to make it stick. Be very careful with that! Even if there is a crisis, nobody is going to give us the two-cent euros.
The same thing happens when a doll with a known average price goes up in the air for no reason at all, it could be a seller who doesn’t know this world and what he’s selling and therefore has little confidence in the transaction.