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Bisque Dolls - Origin, Materials and Appearance

It is not uncommon to find people incorrectly refer to Bisque dolls as porcelain dolls. While both dolls are similar in some respect they are not quite the same for some clear-cut reason.

The major distinction between the pair is that while porcelain dolls (also called china dolls) were glazed, Bisque dolls for the purpose of attaining a more realistic and lifelike skin tone were not glazed. They are most time also painted or tinted to attain this realistic matte finish.

bisque dolls

When they first became popular in the 1860s, these dolls were initially given bodies made from clothes or leather. They were not playthings right from the onset due to their fragile nature, instead, their production was targeted mainly at collectors.

How are they made

Bisque simply refers to an unglazed form of porcelain. This implies that it goes through the same process that a porcelain doll does only with some minor differences. Porcelain is made from a paste of clay mixed with water. This is then fired after molding until it reaches a temperature higher than 2300F.

After firing this way paint is several layers of paint is added several times with more firing down. The application of paint which is an act perfected in the hands of experts helps to give the bisque dolls their more realistic skin tone they are quite popular for.

A brief history of Bisque dolls

The first unglazed porcelain dolls were made by French doll makers sometimes around the late 1980s. soon they became popular and found their way into the hand of German doll makers and the German doll markets as well. But bisque was generally restricted to making the head of the dolls while the rest of the doll body was made from leather and other material.

However, by the 1900s the popularity of bisque dolls began to wane with the rise in the use of composite materials for making the dolls. Towards the end of the 20th century, hobbyist reproduction of these dolls increased and more dolls were being made as collector items rather than as commercial dolls.

How do they look?

Generally, the term bisque dolls are used to refer to dolls with heads made from bisque. The rest of the body can be made from anything else. It is rare to find dolls with completely bisque bodies because they would weigh so much and still be quite fragile.

When the production of these dolls started and up until the mid 19th century, most bisque dolls were molded to look like adults. They had adult feminine features and were designed to resemble the women of the period both in looks and fashion. Later on, more childlike bisque dolls appeared and they soon overtook the market completely. 

Who made Bisque dolls

French and German companies were involved with the production of these dolls. France is reputed as the birthplace of the dolls but production in Germany soon overtook in the late 1800s. by the turn of the 19th century, the United States also joined the production and by the end of the century China also joined in as well and retains the spot as the top producer of bisque dolls today.

Modern dolls

Modern bisque dolls are mainly collector items. In fact, one could say the major reigning argument between collectors is whether they should go for dolls made from high-quality vinyl material or bisque. Many collectors seem to prefer bisque mainly because of its durability, being able to last for many centuries a record vinyl cannot really match despite its toughness. Bisque dolls are fine antique dolls and are sold for varying prices which can be as cheap as $5 and can also as expensive as $200,000 for the most expensive piece ever sold.


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