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French Fashion Dolls
There was one street in Paris, around le passage du Choiseul that was almost entirely occupied by the makers of doll costumes, doll wigs, and accessories. Like the earlier Milliners' Models of papier-machce, these later French types were really fashion dolls. Everything that a fashionable lady could and should wear was reproduced for these dolls-underwear, corsets, dresses, fancy shoes, kid gloves, jewels, combs, fans, and parasols. These all appeared in a doll's apparel. A trousseau might consist of three to sixteen costumes for as many different occasions and each complete with jewels and accessories.
Another French dollmaker of importance was M. Bru, who made a different type of bisque doll, with heavier features and darker coloring than the Jumeau. At first Bru dolls had kid bodies. Later they were wooden and jointed, similar to some used for a time by Jumeau. Indeed it appears that this jointed wooden body was actually invented by Bru. One of the most beautiful kid bodies that we have ever seen was on a Bru doll.
Bru used the shoulder-head with the swivel neck and he usually set an incised mark on the left shoulder: The letters : BRU
French-bisque dolls have also come from smaller houses. Sometimes the dolls were actually made in Germany; sometimes they were made in France from parts imported from Germany, as was the case with the Bebe Steiner." This has always been known as a French doll, but we have it on the authority of a leading French dollmaker today that it was only assembled in France.
Undoubtedly the French-bisque head, as made by Jumeau, represents the best in dollmaking and it is understandable that this doll is the most sought for by collectors, with the exception of the Dresden. The price of the Jumeaus is constantly increasing and they are a good buy, especially when found with original costumes intact. Today most of them found are not likely to be discovered with more than one costume and the accessories are usually pretty well dispersed.
Both Jumeau and Bru made a few brown bisque dolls to represent Negroes, but these are seldom seen in collections and are very scarce. The Germans also made brown bisque dolls for the South Pacific. These dolls for peoples of mixed races often come with blue eyes.
In the writer's collection is a mammy doll with black bisque head and black cloth body. The head has no wig and the bald surface is covered by a knotted bandana turban. Nothing is known of its origin but it is undoubtedly a Germanbisque head, since all bisques were German except the Jumeaus.
Most of the old Negro dolls are composition; a few are of wood, and once in a while one sees a head in wax. Mrs. Elsie Clark Krug, Krug's International Doll House in Baltimore, recently imported a peddler doll from England that had a black wax face with the features of a crone or witch, rather than of a Negro. It was one of the old peddler dolls from about 1780. The body is wood with the legs inserted in a wooden base.