A Piano Baby is a name given to a type of 19th century porcelain figurine. These were hand-painted models depicting babies and infants, and were displayed on top of pianos with the purpose of holding piano scarves in place.
The vast majority of the ‘Piano Baby’ figurines were made from bisque, a matte surface ceramic known as ‘biscuit porcelain’ in Britain. They range in size from 3” up to 18”, and are traditionally created in poses such as crawling, sitting or lying on their backs.
Most of these figurines were produced by German manufacturers, particularly those which also produced fine bisque dolls. The most common original figurines found on today’s market were made by the Heubach company (Gebruder Heubach).
The company was based in Lichten, Germany, from 1840 to 1925 and produced a range of dolls, doll heads, and figurines such as Piano Babies, which it began to manufacture in the 1880s. They are known for their lifelike sculpting, including realistic hair and facial expressions, and are marked with the company’s sunburst design on the base.
Collecting Piano Babies
A large number of reproduction piano babies were manufactures in Japan during the 1950s and 60s, meaning it can be difficult for collectors to spot original figurines from reproductions.
Original German 19th century examples feature a raised-painting process, in which dots and marks such as eye highlights are raised slightly from the surface with a combination of paint and a layer of porcelain slip. Modern 20th century reproductions are flat-painted, and will not feature these raised marks.
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