Fancy haired china dolls are some of the most exquisite dolls made, and they continue to be sought out by collectors, bringing some of the highest prices for antique china dolls made in the 1870’s and later. These next posts highlight three pretty fancy haired dolls in my collection, and one lovely reproduction china head that I would like to show you.
By the 1870’s, china dolls had been produced for about 40 years. The newer, more realistic, Parian and bisque dolls were becoming popular. By this time, the mass production of porcelain was well established, and covered wagon and flat top china dolls were “plain and plentiful,” as some have described them. Though the child china dolls of the 1880’s were made in abundance, and well received by a buying populace, the 1870’s are considered to be the last decade of the “Golden Age” of china dolls.
The marvel of the molded hairstyles of the china dolls is that they stay fixed as a permanent record of trends and fashions of the time they were first made, unlike clothing on the dolls which could be changed and updated for new styles, as could the wigs on bisque dolls. The plain styles of the covered wagon and flat top dolls reflect everyday hairstyles for women in the 1860’s and 70’s. These dolls were usually clothed plainly, as well. During this time, though, women wore elaborate styles that often took hours to coiffe, and a maid, or perhaps a sister, to achieve, for evenings at the opera or other nighttime events. The hairstyles on these dolls can usually be found in fashion plates in Godey’s Ladies’ Book or Peterson’s Magazine.
Fancy haired china dolls needed silk and tulle gowns to complete their evening attire. They are the dolls who have wonderful elaborate and full silk or velvet gowns with lace and millinary flowers when found (or photographed) all-original.
Many fancy hair variations were made on china dolls, though these are harder to find now than the plainer sisters. Some of these fancy styles have names attached to them now, by which collectors can identify them. An important note, though, is that the dolls were not made as portrait dolls to represent a particular person. Rather, in most cases, the name was attached to the doll later, and not all fancy haired chinas have a “handle” name.
Angeline is the newest fancy haired china doll to be added to my collection, and she is probably the oldest of these three fancy dolls. Her hairstyle, with the ringlets trailing alongside her long neck, is quite rare. As far as I know, this style does not have a “handle” name. The reverse roll across her head, and the mass of ringlets in back, reminds me of a Greek Revival style, one that was popular in the Regency era, as in Jane Austen’s time. Angeline has painted brush strokes around her head to look like individual hairs. She has mostly exposed ears and an aristocratic nose.
Angeline’s seller tells me that her shoulder-head was dug up from the factory grounds, though I could not find out which factory it was. Her brown/black hair has a rough, unglazed texture, while the white part of her porcelain is glazed. I don’t know if this is from being buried for years, but I think not—the rough part seems too regular to be from wear.
The shoulder plate on this doll is an earlier style than the other fancy hair dolls, or the flat top dolls. It has the barest hint of a bosom and the shoulders are not so sloped on the sides. This leads me to believe that Angeline is one of the earliest fancy haired dolls, probably from the early 1860’s. I cannot identify her maker (since I don’t know which factory site she was found on), but her face painting seems similar to those identified as A.W. Fr. Kister. She has a repair on the back right corner of her shoulder plate, and multiple stable cracks/crazing in the porcelain of her shoulder plate.
Angeline’s body is obviously not original to her, since she was resurrected from the ground, but it is an old one, probably from the 1870’s. It is jointed at hips and knees, so she can sit well. She has had it for at least ten years, which is how long she lived with her previous mistress. Her red leather boots are sewn on. Her kid leather arms are quite worn, and her left hand is missing. Her shoulder-head is just shy of 4″ tall, and on her body, she is 13″ tall.
The simple lace edged drawers were the only garment Angeline wore when she came to me. She is modeling a rather unique ensemble for her debut. Her slightly trained skirt is an antique one. Her lace bodice is actually a sleeve remnant from an Edwardian dress or blouse, and her shawl is a fabric remnant. Of course, she needs a proper lady’s undergarments, and a fancy gown. I do like the burgundy fabric of her shawl with her complexion, though, and the stripes are a correct print for her era. She may get a nice cotton gown from this fabric, instead of silk. Wait and see!
Next time, Quintonia, a Jenny Lind doll, will be in the spotlight, followed by Gretchen and Sadie. And the History of China Dolls article is in the making.
And now, it’s to the symphony!–or just to my I-pod tonight. Oh well, I have my dreams to sustain me! Good night.