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The Wonderful Half Doll, Decoration and Worker

by Sharon Stajda



They are called by many names, pincushion dolls, tea-cosie dolls and dresser dolls, sometimes referred to as "tops, pin-head or whiskbroom dolls". Most often they are referred to as Half Dolls. These wonderful dolls have one thing in common. They are all tiny waist, and are finely sculptured figurines which were made by the thousand in Germany, France, Bavaria, and Japan,and America. They were designed to disguise or decorate a variety of household objects.Some dolls were made Bisque dolls, and others of porcelain. Many possessed Mohair wigs, some dolls hair style were accomplished by the molding process. Some had movable joints at the arm, many were fixed to one position. Some dolls were produced to be adored, some produced to have a life of toil... Destine to be brushes, for crumbs and such, or to be a cushion for pins...

The variety of Half Doll styles varied greatly. The most popular dolls were the dainty little ladies, and the animal heads. The ladies were delicately arranged in alluring poses and from the waist up their costumes were of the latest fashion,many had wonderful hats. Many were left in the all-natural, to be later dressed in cloth costumes. The dolls were designed to be attached at the waist or lower waist to voluminous skirts, or sometimes to a useful broom or brush to remove lint, and crumb broom, also many were attached to pin cushions. They were used to cover many articles such as a tea pot, powder box, et... Many used just as a flirty decoration. Half dolls were used mainly as a working doll, to be attached to a pincushion or a well used lint broom... Gentlemen also made good use of the Half Dolls, mostly in the form of a lint broom. The half dolls fashioned for males to use , as a rule the subject of the dolls was that of an animals such as rabbits, cats, dogs and birds, also soldiers.

Some of the most beautiful porcelain Half Dolls were made by Dressel & Kister in Passau. Artists used portraits of their subjects, also based many of the dolls on legendary characters from the theater. The dolls showed the great skills of the doll maker, with delicately sculptured hands, armed and tiny waists. They were faultless, showing minute lines on the palm of the hands. The earlier half dolls were made in two pieces. Artist made two-piece moulds with their arms and hands close to their bodies which after removal were smoothed at the seams, then glazed and fired at a very high temperature. The doll was then hand painted, and refired a lower temperature, this process set the high glass appearance glaze.

The More complicated dolls have arms that are held away from the body, with one hand on the hip or touching their hair. At times one hand may hold an object, such as a flower close to their body. This took the artist more time to assure the anchoring of the arms, hands and fingers. This process took great skill, making sure to preserve the dolls delicately graceful pose. The more difficult poses were the dolls with the arms held away from the body. This took great skill in the molding process. These intricate figures positions involved using many separate moulds, and the fragile parts would then be fastened onto the unfired figure in a semi-moist state using slip as an adhesive. These separated Half Doll fingers are the more costly, and harder to come by in today's market place.

Half Dolls were made very popular in the early 1900-1930. They were considered an extravagances for the owner...Half dolls produced in the early part of the 20th century were fashioned to be somewhat similar to the 18th century Meissen dolls. Dolls that were elegant, with elaborate hairstyles and ornate clothes,and hats. In the 1920s the flapper models were produced. In the 1920s, due to greater technology the dolls began to be mass produced.The mass production made the half doll affordable to all. With mass production, a cheap, poorly molded and badly glazed crinoline half doll emerged. They were being used to cover just about anything you can imagine.... The dolls were being cheaply sold in haberdashers and novelty shops, many being made to assemble in the home.

It's not always easy to determine the source or manufacture of a Half Dolls from the marks. Dressel and Kister bought moulds from other factories with the right to use their trademarks. There was also the Herend factory, a producer in Hungary, which imitated the work of other factories, and also was able to reproduce designs and replace pieces when the original manufacturers had long since gone out of business. So there were many porcelain factories reproducing other manufacturers models. New craftsmen also made new,but similar trademark on their finished pieces. Another large problem is that many old dolls lack any marks at all. Partly due to the artist not assigning any great value to the utilitarian Half Doll in the earlier years they were being produced...

Marks, if any, will be on the tapered base of the doll or inside the small opening on the lower unglazed section. Look for the Goebel, Heubach and Dressel and Kister Half Dolls, all are well known to have made lovely half dolls. Capo-di-Monte also produced some exquisite Half Dolls. Other countries that produced wonderful examples of Half Dolls America, the UK and of course later in Japan. All have made wonderful Half Dolls,that are well worth collecting.

The most sought after Half Dolls is the likeness of a waitress in a Vienna chocolate shop, holding a chocolate pot and a cup and saucer on a tray. This wonderful sought after doll was produced by the Goebel porcelain factory. It was designed to advertise Walter Baker chocolate in 1975. It is said to have fetched the highest price ever known for a porcelain half figure doll. Half Dolls of fine quality are now commanding very high prices. They once had a place in almost every home, covering or decorating some whatnot. Many for good amusement, and some as good workers... Now these little gems are well sought after to be collected and treasured...

To obtain a worth, please refer to Schoeders Antique Price Guide. There is a good representation of today's market worth. Further reading, OldAndSolds Antique Digest, a wonderful area to help one gain information on a multitude of Antiques and collectibles.