Antique Bisque Dolls
Bisque dolls are popularly known as porcelain dolls, however the term is actually a misnomer. That is because the heads of these dolls are covered with unglazed porcelain or “bisque” which makes them bisque dolls instead.
The advantage of using bisque over glazed porcelain is that the dolls' heads have a more natural-looking skin color. This change took place beginning in the 1860s and from then on the dolls gradually gained popularity among the French.
If the bisque is left unpainted, the white-headed dolls are referred to as parian dolls.
The artistry that is expressed in the life-like features of the dolls makes them highly collectible. These days, bisque dolls are too fragile to be played with by children and so have become more suitable for display.
Prior to the 1860s, doll heads were mostly made of glazed porcelain. Doll-making companies introduced unglazed porcelain as doll heads. Over time, bisque became the preferred material to make doll heads with and remained fashionable until about the beginning of the 20th Century. They became popular again in the 1980s as collector dolls.
Bisque dolls were originally manufactured by companies in France but most of them moved to Germany in the late 19th Century. Afterwards, from the beginning of the 1900s, the United States of America became the center of bisque doll manufacturing. That center shifted to China beginning the late 20th Century. At present, except for dolls especially made by craftsmen, all bisque dolls are produced in China.
Types and composition
There are three types of Bisque dolls: fashion dolls, bebe dolls and character dolls. Fashion dolls are adults while bebe dolls are infants. Character dolls portray famous personalities.
Obviously, dolls cannot be made entirely of bisque because such dolls would be too heavy and delicate. There are however, bisque dolls made from the 1800s to 1930s that are made out of bisque completely but are reduced in size. These “penny dolls” could be as small as half an inch. The largest bisque dolls are life-sized.
The Price of Bisque Dolls
The price of bisque dolls range from the $5 China-made ones to the $200,000 exclusively crafted ones. Collectible bisque dolls can be had from $20 to $500, depending on the composition and exclusivity of the make. Finely-crafted antique bisque dolls can be had for around $500 although some are valued in the thousands.
Assessing the Quality of Bisque Dolls
How can one tell if a bisque doll is worth the price? The value of a bisque doll even from the same maker would greatly vary depending on the
following factors: (1) the bisque quality, (2) the paint on the doll’s face, and (3) body type.
The less black speckles, bumps, or pin holes the better. It should slightly allow the passage of light and it shouldn’t have the feel of chalk.
One can tell that the face of the bisque doll is well-made if the eyelashes and eyebrows are meticulously done. The lips are given prominence but the cheek blush shouldn’t be too heavy.
Bodies that permit more posing such as those that are jointed are preferred over paper mache or leather. This is especially true for French fashion dolls where posing is important. A jointed wooden body is best desired for this type of bisque dolls.