Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quick Survey of China Heads

Very rare china head with molded bonnet.  Theriault's.com
Over time, like many collectors, I've gathered many unusual dolls to add to my collection, including dolls with china heads.  The humble, so-called "low brow" was for me, the iconic antique doll. These dolls are still plentiful and affordable, and come in a variety of sizes.  I have an example that is three feet high with provenance because she survived the 1906 San Francisco Quake.  I survived the 1989 Quake.  That give us something in common.  My first antique “low brow” doll was five inches high, all cloth, with cloth arms and legs.  Mom sewed her a yellow eyelet and batiste dress she still wears.  My first large low brow with black hair was a name head, “Helen,” and I got her at 15.  Many whole and fragmented “low brows” joined the collection, many doll house sized, some replicas I made from kits created for doll houses by my friend Violet Page.
 
Brown Eyed China head from the Blackler Collection,
Theriault's.com
While damaged dolls and vintage reproductions are not great investments, they do allow young collectors the opportunity to study how dolls are made.  Also, they are a great way to elarn to make dolls. 
 
As a teen,  I found a Marie Antoinette Sherman Smith doll, and two other Smith dolls on wooden bodies, 1940s china head Christmas Angels, including Holt Howard choirboys, in sizes from 3 inches to 9 inches.  There were more and more half dolls to explore, including some with Medieval headdress Eleanor St. George considered china heads though they were pincushion or half dolls.  Another grey haired doll form the 40s is now vintage; her glazed hair is braided and gray.  This style is also called “Marie Antoinette,” though we don’t know how many actually resented real women.  Others in Noble's works are called Maria Pavlova, Adelina Patti, Jenny Lind, and Highland Mary.  Some old heads have braids worn on their heads as a coronet. My largest ceramic head is about 12 inches high with such a style, she is an artist head by my friend Violet, and she “nodded” forward in the kiln due to her weight.  She makes a doll nearly 4 feet high. There are also Spanish china heads with wigs and painted features from Balos, and some from Capo di Monte and Marin, Italy and Spain.
 
Morning Glory China Head, Theriault's.com
I learned of Rohmer dolls, with zinc bodies, and Huret dolls, with glass eyes and wigs after reading John Noble's Beautiful Dolls and The Collector's Encyclopedia of Dolls, volume I..  I added a Patti Jene artist doll of a china head with a wig.  She was assembled with old limbs and clothes, and has re-1860 colored flat boots.

My rarest is a man’s head, with black hair, painted eyes, goatee and moustache.  I think he may represent Napoleon III, husband of Eugenie, and I have an old head representing Eugenie herself.

There is a Queen Victoria doll from Shackman, and several Jenny Linds, one by Emma Clear, one an antique. One small antique  doll has a waterfall hairdo in a net.  Some have molded ribbons.  There are swivel necked chinas, and I have one in bisque from Japan with the curly lowbrow hairdo.  I think these dolls are meant to have a Gibson girl type hair do with the rest of their hair pinned up in back.  They are the most common and plentiful, and cost pennies.  Many were made by Hertel and Schwab, and some were found intact after the Iron Curtain came down, in their original East German Factories.

Shards of these and other bisque dolls that were thrown out are still buried in the soil and turn up.  I have a box of them, sent from Germany, with the dirt in which they were buried clinging to them.  The box still has its German label.

Allegedly, more than 1 billion china heads were made in Germany during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Rare examples, some wth glass eyes, sleeping eyes, glass eyes and even teeth show up every so often.  There are affordable examples of china heads for everyone, and they inspire colletors of lady head vases and assemblage artists, too.   They are a great way to introduce new collectors to the world of antique dolls.

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