I have loved dolls, history, and the Victorian Era since I was little and can credit my grandmother for that. As a young girl she gave me a Godey’s Fashion print for August 1870 from my great, great Aunt Flossie. I was captivated by the dresses and became hooked. I just love to research everything and anything about the Victorian Era. I also love to design Victorian dolls. I hope you enjoy my Victorian Dolls, Victorian Traditions,The Victorian Era, and Me blog.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

China Head Dolls - They're Just So Beautiful

Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

I have always been fascinated with China Head Dolls and have always wanted to buy some china heads to make some dolls of my own.  I've always felt that as far as dolls are concerned some of the most beautiful dolls throughout history have to be the china head dolls, like the China Head Doll, shown in the illustration above, from the National Gallery of Art.

According to their description: This china-headed doll has a particularly lovely costume. The dress is plaid silk taffeta; it is worn over a petticoat of tan alpaca trimmed with blue silk bands. The pantalettes are of cotton with eyelet embroidery. The doll's hairstyle makes her a collector's item; china dolls with a knot on the head are rare. This feature, however, is almost completely hidden by the silk bonnet. This doll has a cloth body and arms and feet of kid. The head is glazed porcelain. China-head dolls were first made in Europe around 1750 but did not become extremely popular until the 1840s. This doll dates from 1840–1850. Often the heads were imported to America and used on American-made dolls' bodies.

Credits: Beverly Chichester (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Edison Institute of Technology (object owner), Doll in Plaid Dress, c. 1937, watercolor, gouache, pen and ink, and graphite on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.7814.

Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

The beautiful China Head Doll, shown in the illustration above, is also from the National Gallery of Art.

According to their description: The fashions and tastes of a particular era may often be reflected in its dolls. This Parian bisque doll, dated between 1840 and 1860, wears a costume of sprigged wool challis edged with coordinated braid; the bonnet is velvet edged with black fringe. The style dates from about 1850 when patterned fabrics such as this were fashionable. The doll's hairstyle imitates one popular with children between the 1830s and 1860s.

Credits: Doll with China Head, Rendered by Mary Porter (artist), 1935/1942, watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on paper, overall: 42 x 33.4 cm (16 9/16 x 13 1/8 in.), Index of American Design
1943.8.15504, From the Tour: Dolls from the Index of American Design.

Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

The beautiful China Head Doll, shown in the illustration above, is named "Hanna Hitch" and she is from the National Gallery of Art.

According to their description: This doll is named "Hanna Hitch" She is a black china-head doll made in Germany and dating from 1876. She has kid arms and a cloth body. The doll's costume is of gray-green alpaca with a plaid taffeta turban. Black china-head dolls are rare; the heads for such dolls were more often made of bisque or other materials. Germany was a leader in the production of china dolls, especially after 1870 when factory methods were introduced. A great number of china and bisque dolls in the nineteenth century came from Germany because dollmakers were being subsidized by the government and could sell the dolls cheaply.

Credits: Edith Towner (artist), American, active c. 1935, Mary Hitch (object maker), Mrs. F.C. (Vernette Snyder) Ripley (object owner), American  Doll--"Hannah Hitch", c. 1940, watercolor and graphite on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15389.

According to The Ultimate Doll Book by Caroline Goodfellow: When German makers introduced the first porcelain doll heads with molded hairstyles in the 1830's, a variety of quality dolls came onto the market.  These early shoulder heads are called glazed chinas because they are overglazed - a finish that makes them glossy while retaining the whiteness of the porcelain.  The coloring of the cheeks and facial fixtures is fixed in the underglaze, but it is quite rare for such heads to be tinted overall with flesh tones.

So, China Head Dolls were first introduced in Europe in 1750, but didn't become widely popular until the 1840's. For the most part the hair and clothing of the china head dolls followed the fashion of the day.

Also, the costs of many of the 19th century china and bisque head dolls were being subsidized by the German government, which made them very cheap to sell.  Talk about cornering the market. Government subsidization would certainly do that for any manufacturer.

I decided I wanted to know more about some of the beautiful china head dolls created during this period.  The problem is there were so many of them and so many different types - where to begin. Here's what I found out:

According to the DollReference.com website china head dolls range from 3" tall to 40" doll and for the most part are identified by hairstyle.

I thought, maybe this won't be so hard.  Guess again.  According to Jan Foulke's Guide to Dolls there have to be over 50 different types of dolls and hairstyles.  We're back to not knowing where to begin.
So, I decided to focus on just a few different hair styles and maybe the Mary Todd Lincoln china head doll with golden snood and the Dolly Madison china head doll.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.com

The China Doll Head, shown in the picture above, is from the Wikipedia.com page on China Head Dolls.

According to their description she is a typical German 1860s flat top hair style china doll. 

I learned a little more about china head dolls from their article, like:  A typical china doll has a glazed porcelain head with painted molded hair and a body made of cloth or leather. They range in size from more than 30"tall to 1 inch. Antique china dolls were predominantly produced in Germany, approximately between 1840 and 1940. Rare and elaborately decorated antique china dolls can have value on the collectors market. Beginning in the mid-20th-century reproductions of china dolls of various quality were produced in Japan and the United States.

Also: A typical china doll has a shoulder head made of glazed whitish porcelain, with painted molded hair and facial features. The glaze gives the doll a characteristic glossy appearance. The head is typically attached to a body made of cloth or leather, sometimes with arms and legs made of porcelain. Some early china head dolls were placed on peg jointed wooden bodies. China doll parts were also sold for the customer to fashion a body and clothing. Some cloth bodied china dolls could be more than 30" tall, and others as small as 3."

Online Collections (The Strong) / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The China Doll Head c. 1880-1900, shown in the picture above, is from The Strong National Museum of Play. Credits: Manufacturer Alt, Beck & Gottschalck, Material China | parian, Object ID 86.5177.

According to their description: By about 1880, German makers of dolls introduced china heads with novel features. Unlike the doll heads of previous decades, manufacturers offered heads clearly intended to represent children. These new heads had simple, short, curly hairstyles, short necks, chubby cheeks, and round eyes. The depiction of children came at a time when Europeans and Americans began to think of childhood as a unique period of the life cycle, and middle-class children in the late 19th century (for whom the dolls were intended) were purposely given time to be youngsters--not hurried into labor on family farms or in small factories as the youngsters of earlier generations had been.

There is a wonderful article on The Strong National Museum of Play written by Patricia Hogan entitled "The Curious Case of the China Doll" about the 700 china head dolls in their collection that you might be interested in.  Her article is here.

Mary Todd Lincoln China Head Dolls

Image Courtesy of Kathy Libraty's Antiques - RubyLane.com

The Mary Todd Lincoln China Head Doll With Snood first appeared on dolls in the1860s.

I found the beautiful Mary Todd Lincoln China Head Doll With Golden Snood doll, shown in the picture above, in Kathy Libraty's Antiques on RubyLane.com.

According to their description: This big and beautiful lady exhibits some of the best features that made the golden age of china doll production so magical. A special model made as a portrait of the President's wife at the time, this beautiful Mary Todd Lincoln is a prime example of the civil war era dolls made in Germany for both American and international markets. Crisp modeling, and sharply-painted features make up her pale complexion, along with a molded, gold leafed snood that holds her dark hair in a pleasant silhouette. Having a beautiful Goldsmith-type body with leather hands and boots, she is sporting a lovely 1855 style costume that begs to be displayed...

If you'd like to know more about her outfit please click here.

Image Courtesy of Joys Antique Dolls - RubyLane.com

There was another China Lady Doll Mary Todd Lincoln Pink Tint c. 1860s  doll, shown in the picture above, inn Joys Antique Dolls on RubyLane.com.

According to their description: c1860s china head portrait lady doll known by collectors as 'Mary Todd Lincoln', circa 1860, 17-1/2" tall. This particular head with its molded snood and gold trimmed accents, is avidly sought after by advanced collectors as a favorite.

If you'd like to know more about her outfit please click here.

Image Courtesy of Faraway Antiques Shop - Doll Shops United

The beautiful 21.5" Mary Todd Lincoln China Doll, shown in the picture above, is from the Faraway Antiques Shop on Doll Shops United.

According to her description: This is a gorgeous example of the china lady referred to as Mary Todd Lincoln. She has a perfect glazed porcelain shoulder head. Her antique cloth body has attached boots and a faux corset. She wears a very fine aged two-piece ensemble, as well as layered unders, including a fantastic slip with a very long train, worthy of the finest French Fashion.

If you'd like to know more about her outfit please click here.

Dolly Madison China Head Doll

Image Courtesy of Liveauctioneers.com

The Dolly Madison China Head Doll first was popular on dolls in the1870s.

The VINTAGE DOLLY MADISON CHINA HEAD DOLL, H 23", shown in the picture above, is from the Liveauctioneers.com website.

According to their description: Doll has painted features including black curly hair blue eyes. Old cloth and leather body has a narrow waist. Nicely dressed in antique ecru wool bodice and skirt with lace trim.

After learning quite a bit about china head dolls and the 2 china head dolls in particular that I wanted to learn about I decided it was time to see some of the more beautiful dolls out there.  Here's a few I found:

Image Courtesy of Carmel Doll Shop

The beautiful China Head Doll, shown in the picture above, is from the Carmel Doll Shop.

According to their description: One of the most outstanding Chinas we have offered in quite a while, this German lady has it all. Fine details include a perfect shoulder head with exquisite coloring, and lovely painting especially of the mouth, but the real treat can be seen a bit higher - her hair - which incorporates a molded and gilded snood that features a ruffled edge in front, with lavender luster. You will also find a molded bunch of grapes decorated in luster, along with green leaves! On a stuffed cloth body that is fitted with lovely china arms with cupped hands, and legs with flat feet, she wears a gorgeous two-piece ensemble of burgundy faille with cream lace accents - perfection!

Image Courtesy of Carmel Doll Shop

There was another beautiful China Head Doll from the Carmel Doll Shop that I loved.  She is shown in the picture above. How beautiful is she?

According to their description: A sublime German China who is spectacular for not only her impressive size, but also for her extremely rare hairstyle, in blonde! She will delight you with her lovely coloring and singular personality - then there is the hair - the photos should do a good job of explaining just how marvelous it is. On a stuffed cotton body that is fitted with replacement china arms, this fine lady is beautifully costumed in china silk and floral printed silk that takes its lead from 18th century examples. The draping upon the skirt, and the fit upon the sloping shoulders is sheer joy to the eyes.....

Image Courtesy of Carmel Doll Shop

There was another beautiful China Head Doll from the Carmel Doll Shop that I also loved.  She is shown in the picture above.

According to their description: An exquisite, all original, eleven-inch, china version of Empress Eugenie, she is a perfect shoulder head model with brilliant blue eyes, plus she boasts lovely painting with wisps at the temples, and a molded snood. On her original French leather body, she wears a very beautiful, but tender dress of cream and blue striped silk, with French blue silk bows and ruched details. A cabinet-sized example of exceptional quality.

Image Courtesy of Edyth O'Neill

If you have a china doll head and want to know how to make the body for your china doll head Edyth O'Neill has a "A Body Pattern for Antique  Papier Mache and China Shoulder Head Dolls" on her Dolls For My Red Cape blog here.

I decided I'm just going to have to make some time to make a few china head dolls. They're just so beautiful. Wouldn't you agree?

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