What are Chinese doll heads?

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China head dolls were popular toys in the 19th century, made of porcelain with painted hair and features. They were dressed in fashionable clothing and often unmarked. Original dolls are valuable, but reproductions exist and can be identified by experts.

China head dolls are now antiques and often very valuable, but in the 19th century they were a popular toy for children. Chinese head dolls are so named because the head, neck, and upper shoulders are made of porcelain. The hands and feet are also in porcelain, while the body is in padded fabric or kidskin, or even in carved wood. The porcelain pieces have holes for sewing the appendages onto the body. Unlike many of the dolls that became popular early on, porcelain head dolls were made to represent women rather than children.

Chinese head dolls were made of porcelain, which was painted, glazed, and fired for permanence. This gives the dolls features a glossy look. This also means that the white of the porcelain represents the flesh tone of the doll. The dolls often have black-painted hair, china blue eyes, and slightly flushed cheeks; combined with the white “skin”, this color scheme gives the dolls a stylish and striking look.

China head dolls do not have real “hair”, as did many of the later dolls. Instead, their hair was styled and painted as part of the heads, often representing the most fashionable styles of the time. Accordingly, the hairstyle of a porcelain head doll can generally be used to go out with the doll.

China head dolls were also dressed in the appropriate styles of the era in which they were made. While it’s more common that the clothing — and fabric bodies — have not survived the test of time, a doll with original clothing is considered particularly valuable. Doll costumes were often very elaborate, including all items of clothing typically worn by women of fashion. Shoes or boots might be painted on a porcelain foot, or made of fabric or kid.

Chinese head dolls were often unmarked. When they have signs, they are often inside the head; identification therefore may require the removal of the head from the body, which is not recommended as it ruins the originality of the doll. Since a doll’s value is related to how original it is, changing it in any way can reduce its value. However, sometimes porcelain head dolls can be identified solely by the hairstyles and features with which the makers have imbued them.

Although antique porcelain head dolls are quite valuable, there are many reproductions available. These porcelain head dolls aren’t that old, though they are often made to look as if they are. A novice may not be able to tell the difference, but an individual familiar with the original dolls’ hairstyles, facial features, and construction should be able to spot a fake. For this reason, it is advisable to research porcelain head dolls thoroughly before making a purchase or sale.

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