Bisque dolls, with heads made from unglazed, tinted porcelain, are among the most elaborate and valuable of all collector’s dolls. The finest French bisques, made by leading makers such as Jumeau, Bru, Gaultier and Steiner, were expensive status symbols even when first made, and remained very much the province of pampered children from the most affluent homes.
The earliest French Bisques resembled fashionable ladies and came equipped with wardrobes of elaborate clothes, based on fashion plates of the day.
Later in the century, the firm of Jumeau began making dolls with child-like features, large eyes and chubby bodies known as bébés – these soon became enormously popular, and although German manufacturers followed suit and produced there own child dolls they could never quite match the quality of the French bébé. German manufacturers eventually recovered the lion’s share of the market in the early 20th century, when they introduced realistic “character” dolls, with crying, laughing, frowning and smiling faces.
The price of Bisque dolls ranges from thousands of pounds to a few hundred and is dependent on the maker, condition and quality, and on details such as the rarity of the mould number (the number on the back of the head which showed which mould was used) as well as the type of mouth (closed is best), eyes and body. Most collector dolls on the mass market made in bisque range today from $20 to $500.
Collectors prefer bisque dolls on jointed composition bodies which allow more posing that simple carton (paper mache) bodies jointed only at the hips and shoulders, or stiffer all-leather bodies. For bisque French Fashion dolls, a jointed wood body or other body allowing posing is preferred to an all-leather body. These are only some basic guidelines, but they are enough to help you start evaluating your first antique bisque dolls.
Sizes and Characteristics of Bisque Dolls :
A doll is considered bisque if the head of the doll is made of bisque. Most bisque dolls are not made totally of bisque because of the great weight and fragility such a doll with a bisque body and limbs would have. Small dolls, known as all-bisque, were all the rage from the late 1800s to about 1930, many of them were known as “penny dolls.” Most bisque dolls have bodies of cloth or composition. Bisque dolls have been made in all sizes, from 1/2 an inch up to life-size dolls of five feet tall.