Posted in Dolls

by Ruby Lane

The pale coloring of this 19″ doll is a perfect balance to her sparkling eyes and molded jewelry, epitomizing the western image of beauty in the 1870s.  Doll courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Richard Saxman Antiques.

Forms of porcelain items, made without the addition of color or surface glaze, came to the high-end market in Europe in the 18th century. Makers such as Severes, Meissen and Wedgewood among others, all produced decorative items in what was called “Biscuit.” In the second quarter of the 19th century a number of English firms began to develop a form of biscuit porcelain that closely resembled marble in both color and finish. The Copeland factory brought products with this new refined porcelain to the marketplace in 1845. This was developed by Thomas Battam and was called “Statuary Porcelain” by the company due to its use in creating small versions of famous marble statues to adorn Upper- and burgeoning Middle-Class homes of the era. However, several other porcelain makers were also developing similar porcelain formulations at this same time. Wedgwood called their product “Carrera,” while Minton coined the term “Parian” to connotate the product’s likeness to the marble from the Greek Island of Paros.

At England’s Great Exhibition of 1851, popularly referred to as the Crystal Palace Exhibition, a marble statue entitled The Greek Slave, made by American Artist Hiram Powers, caused a public sensation for its beauty and detail. The popularity of this art piece was a perfect opportunity for porcelain companies to showcase their new marble-look formulations. Companies such as Copeland, Goss, Minton and numerous others reproduced miniatures of this statue in porcelain. Although as previously mentioned each company initially had its own name for this new unglazed biscuit-ware, “Parian” is the name that came into general public use.

Dolls referred to as “Parian” have long been admired and sought by doll collectors despite years of confusion as to their origins and changing views on what collectors should be calling them. It is helpful to the modern collector to understand the material involved and the terminologies, both past and present, used to discuss the products made from these materials.

The Great Exhibition held in London at the Crystal Palace in 1851 stimulated an interest in Parian wares. The marble statue The Greek Slave which was exhibited there was reproduced in smaller scale by many porcelain companies. This example was by the British firm of Goss, photo courtesy of Skinner auctions.

Throughout the remainder of the 19th century parian figures would be embraced by the public and generally thought to be the height of good taste in furnishing one’s home in both Europe and the Americas. Considering this trend in home adornment it is not surprising that doll makers would emulate this look in the dolls of the 1840s – 90s. Many companies that had already been making glazed porcelain dolls, which collectors now refer to as “China” dolls added unglazed porcelain dolls to their product lines.

Although fancy hairdos abound on the untinted bisque dolls, examples with more simple styles can also be found.
Untinted bisque dolls were made in sizes ranging from 29 or more inches, down to dolls suitable for dollhouses such as this 6.5″ dollhouse lady.

In the early to mid-20th century collectors were calling these dolls by many names such as “Dresden,” ” Biscuit” and “Blonde Bisque,” but as with the statuary previously discussed the name “Parian” has stuck with the dolls for the longest period. Today “Untinted Bisque” or “So-Called Parian” are gaining favor in terminology.  It should be said that although the parian statues were ivory-white in appearance the dolls referred to as parian do have fired-on surface color to blush the cheeks, color the lips, eyes, hair, etc. while leaving the underlying “skin tone” white or pale ivory.

But whatever term we use to discuss them, this niche within the history of dolls is a very exciting area to study and collect. By the1860s the German doll makers were embracing this style of doll. Although they would continue to be made into the early years of the 20th century the height of popularity and quality was the 1870s.

This lovely lady is attributed to the firm of C F Kling & Co. She has swept back hair held in a snood. Molded hair ornaments on untinted bisque dolls can be found both painted in contrast to the hair or not painted in contrast.
The gold lustre detail on the tiara of this 13″ doll is rarity factor. Lustre glaze was also often used on the molded footwear found on commercially made bodies used on these dolls.
This example has a removable ormolu tiara which fits into two holes in the doll’s molded hairstyle.

Trained artists employed by individual factories, or working as freelancers for multiple factories designed the doll heads which were then realized in 3-dimentional form by modelers. Plaster molds were made from the models and porcelain slip was poured into the molds. After the molding process the pieces were air dried. At this stage hand applied porcelain details such as flowers in the hair, ruffles around the neckline and so forth could be added to the doll head which was then fired in the kiln.

Many of these dolls were sold as just shoulder-heads, particularly those exported to the USA, which accounts for the vast array of home-made bodies they can be found on today. But other examples on commercially made bodies, wearing commercially made costumes can also be found.

The process used in making these dolls lent itself well to the addition of porcelain details such as the ruffles around the neckline of this beautiful 18.5″ example by the German company of C F Kling & Co. Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Gigi’s Dolls & Sherry’s Teddy Bears.
Two approximately 11″ dolls exhibit elaborate hairstyles of the 1870s. The doll on the left has separately applied flowers in her hair.
Glass eyes are another desirable feature in these dolls. The doll on the left is attributed to Alt, Beck & Gottschalk and wears her factory original costume, the doll on the right has the added feature of having a swivel neck and is attributed to the firm of Simon & Halbig.

German makers known to have produced these dolls include; Alt, Beck & Gottschalk, Conta & Böhme, Dornheim Knoch & Fischer Porellanfabrik,  Eberlein, Goebel, Hertwig, A W Kister, Kestner, Kling, Mertz, and Simon & Halbig, and there were others. Again, just as with the terminology associated with this style of dolls, attributions over which companies made which models has continued to evolve as deeper research is conducted. Regardless of exactly who made each doll found in the marketplace today, collectors can enjoy the variety, detail and beauty of parian perfection found in dolls.

Two hatted dolls are both delightful with the larger measuring just 9 inches but the smaller doll is quite rare with her untinted bisque torso which has molded undergarments. Photo courtesy of Morphy auctions.
Often called “the Dresden Gent” by collectors, this doll is thought to have been made by C F Kling & Co. It must be remembered that model names such as Dresden Gent are monikers created by 20th century collectors to allow us to easily discuss our dolls and were not names given to these dolls when they were originally being marketed.
In the 1890s and into the early years of the 20th century Hertwig & Co. of Germany used untinted bisque for their line of bonnet-head dolls.

Author – Linda Edward


Jurgen and Marianne Cieslik German Doll Encyclopedia. Cumberland: Hobby House Press, 1985

Dorothy S., Elizabeth A., Evelyn J. Coleman The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Dolls Vol. I & II. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1968 & 1986

Elizabeth A. Coleman, assisted by Kathy Turner Inside Porcelain Doll Shoulder Heads. Washington: Elizabeth Ann Coleman, 2018

Clara Hallard Fawcett Dolls, A New Guide For Collectors. Boston: Charles T Branford Co., 1964

Mary Gorham Krombholz Identifying German Parian Dolls. Cumberland: Reverie, 2006

John Darcy Noble Dolls. New York: Walker & Co., 1967

Eleanor St. George The Dolls of Yesterday. New York and London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948

Eleanor St. George Dolls of Three Centuries. New York and London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951

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