Hello, Dolly!

As promised, I’m taking a few minutes out today to share photos of my newest doll. She’s a lovely Kestner china doll from the 1860’s. (Chinas are dated by hairstyles, which were kept quite fashionable and changed substantially by decades.) She’s one of two big girls I have, measuring 26″ tall, though I doubt this is an original body. Her head is nice, however, and that’s what I was seeking. My other large china is an ABG (Alt, Beck, & Gottschalck), and she’s lovely and delicate, despite the breaks in her head. The differences in the girls are striking, and I love having the two of them to compare. It wasn’t so many years ago that I remember thinking if you’d seen one china doll, you’d seen them all, but I’ve definitely changed my tune as I’ve studied these ladies more closely. They differ as much in apparent age and personality as any of my other dolls, and much more than some.
Kestner China Full Kestner China Portrait
New Kestner Girl
ABG China Portrait
My ABG Girl – also 1860’s
I thought perhaps it would be useful to some if I posted close-ups of the two faces so you could see the painting details that differentiate these two companies so clearly. As always, clicking the thumbnail will provide a larger view.
ABG china close up Kestner china close up
ABG Kestner
The clearest differences are (please distinguish between flash reflection and real highlights!):
  • Eye highlight – ABG, large and clear white, in iris; Kestner, smaller, bluish white, at edge of pupil.
  • Lash line – ABG, broad and black; Kestner, narrow and brown
  • Compare the outline of the iris and shading of same
  • Nostrils – ABG, solid dots; Kestner, delicate circles
  • Mouth – ABG, two toned, closed, with shaped partition line between lips; Kestner, single color, with lips parted by a white space and turned up at the corners

There are a number of other companies which produced china dolls, but I don’t have examples this large from those firms. I highly recommend the book Identifying German Chinas 1840’s – 1930’s by Mary Gorham Krombholz to anyone who is interested in learning more about these fascinating dolls. The book shares much in the way of history and provides hundreds of large, clear photos that make it easy to pinpoint era and manufacturer for most any china head doll you would find.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How interesting! My grandmother collects dolls, but I don’t think she has any china dolls. What a great part of history!

  2. Thanks, Toni. I’ve learned a lot as my doll collection has grown, but the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know! You might want to check your library to see if they have the book I mentioned or perhaps be able to get it on inter-library loan. You wouldn’t even have to be a doll lover to find the history and styles fascinating.

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