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The History Of Jumeau Dolls
Germany has always been the land of doll makers and for generations France has imported bisque and china heads from there. About 1862, M. Jumeau, the leading French dollmaker, decided to end this dependence on Germany by creating a bisque head that would be French in every particular. For this purpose he employed artists to design a head of great beauty in Blonde bisque. It was to be superior in every way, and so it turned out. The eyes were a lovely feature, deep and luminous, made of blown glass. There is no mistaking the eyes of a Jumeau doll for anything else. Some fanciful collectors have called them "spun glass eyes," but actually there is no such thing as a spun glass eye. Wigs were tacked to a cork fitted into a large opening in the head. At first they were made of the hair of the Tibetan goat hair, later of mohair.
M. Jumeau's fame as a dollrnaker dates from 1844. He was then using German heads but dressing his dolls in handsome clothes. A commentator on the Crystal Palace Exposition in London in 1851, where M. Jumeau exhibited, remarks on the beautiful clothes but calls the dolls quite ordinary. When the Jumeau French-bisque heads came out, they were considered superior to all others.
At first head and shoulders were in one piece, but about 1869 Jumeau's eldest son invented a swivel neck, which was a decided improvement. Bodies on, Jumeau dolls went through a long evolution. They were made in fourteen sizes. The earliest were jointed kid stuffed with sawdust, but when handled the joints on these also filled with sawdust and the dolls would not stand up. So a jointed wooden body was made with the kid drawn over it like a suit of long underwear; then there was a wooden and kid body, each joint and member having the kid shrunken on before assembling, and in progression, a stockinet, a cloth, and an all-wood body. A cotton body with leather arms was made for the cheaper Jumeau dolls, but until 1880 the bisque shoulder-head was used on all.
In that year, M. Jumeau's son invented a composition body-similar to that of modern dollsbut first made in the Jumeau factory. It was strung together with elastic cord and the shoulder was abandoned in favor of a head sunk into the body, as in the modern types. Until these dolls appeared, the Jumeaus were seldom marked except in unusual cases. Besides these body variations there were transitional hands and feet. The material of these evidently depended on what was at hand. The fact seems to be that the Jumeaus used leftovers from one body to finish the next until all was used up. The one constant factor is the beauty of the eyes.