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Parian Or Dresden Dolls
Doll-making entered a new and fascinating stage with the "bisque" heads. Bisque heads are unglazed. China heads are also made from clay, but are subsequently dipped in a glaze and fired.
Today the most sought-after dolls, and therefore the most expensive, ranging from one hundred to five hundred dollars each, are those with unglazed Parian or Blonde-bisque Dresden heads. Why collectors think them worth so much is something of a mystery. The Parian lead is white, like marble. The Blonde-bisque has delicate coloring in hair, eyes, lips, cheeks, and ornaments, but the term "Parian" through usage is now applied to both. Parian heads are made from the same type of clay as the more common glazed china heads, but Parians are left unglazed, as are the coarser type known as Stone-bisque. Early and later Parians and Stone-bisque heads differ mainly in the degree of fineness to which the clay is ground. The Parian and Blondebisque heads were made between 1850 and 1870, or perhaps a little later. The finest and smoothest are from the 1850 to 1860 decade.
Usually the Parians were elaborately decorated with colored feathers, flowers, scarves, ribbons, combs, jewels, and luster ruffs-single, double, occasionally triple-about the bottom of the yoke. The hair, blonde for the most part but occasionally brunette, was arranged in interesting and elaborate ways. The eyes were painted or of blown glass, oval with high centers-the "paperweight" type. The glass-eyed dolls are preferred by collectors.
Heads measure from two and one half to six inches high. They are beautiful both in design and workmanship, a product in which any potter might take pride, but curiously enough there is no mention-not a single word about themin any book on the china made at the Dresden factories. Curious? Yes, but the reason is not far to seek. These beautiful heads were regarded as commercial hack work by the men who made them and unworthy to carry the name or mark of the pottery.
The Parian heads made at the Dresden factories if we consider the internal evidence conclusive, were apparently shipped to America as holiday novelties to be sold by jewelers, confectioners, and other shopkeepers. There are at least two authenticated instances of this. Before the Civil War, the German grandfather of Miss. Almelia Robeck settled in Annapolis, Maryland, as a baker and confectioner. In her collection Miss Robeck has a doll, which she acquired from the estate of an Annapolis woman in its original wrappings, who had purchased it in her grandfather's store. The doll must have been bought about i 86o for the store was looted and destroyed by Union soldiers when Annapolis fell into their hands that year. Further proof comes from Mrs. Otis Carl Williams of ,Jamestown, Rhode Island, whose grandfathcr was a jeweler in Providence, Rhode Island. As a child, playing one day in her grandfather's barn, she found a box containing a number of Dresden doll heads apparently unsold merchandise. Her grandfather gave them to her, but her mother, an early collector, confiscated them, gave them bodies, and dressed them. Today, Mrs. Williams and her sister, who divided their mother's collection, each have several wonderful Parian or Dresden dolls.