Treasures

Porcelain figure made before World War I

 
 
This decorative figure was made from bisque porcelain before the beginning of World War I.
This decorative figure was made from bisque porcelain before the beginning of World War I.
HANDOUT / MCT

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q: My mom has been wondering about the value of a doll that she has had for many years. I tried to find information about this doll online, but I have not found anything to date. She is in very good shape. Can you help us with some history and suggest a price?

C. J./V. K.

A: When we saw the term “doll” used to describe this object in the email, we were expecting to see a child’s figural toy. What we found, however, is not generally considered to be a doll but a porcelain figure that might have been used to decorate a parlor, a dining room or perhaps milady’s bedroom.

This piece would have most likely been found on a mantel, dressing table, sideboard or dining table — or perhaps it might have been kept in a curio cabinet for safety’s sake. It is doubtful (in our view) that anyone ever actually “played” with this piece, and it would have been hard to make clothes for it or do other activities generally associated with a child’s doll.

We cannot see the mark very well, but we believe it was one used by Gebruder (Brothers) Heubach. All we can see is the “G H” monogram, which often was used in the marks employed by Gebruder Heubach (not to be confused with Ernst Heubach, who worked as a doll maker in Koppelsdorf, Thuringia, Germany).

Gebruder Heubach was founded in 1904 in Lichte, Germany, and remained in business until 1945. This company is known for making decorative porcelains and household porcelains including both animal and human figures (a.k.a. “figurines,” but we tend to avoid using this term because we view it as being dismissive), and doll’s heads.

This particular figure is in the form of a woman standing in front of a fence with a bonnet on her head and a ribbon around her neck. She has blossoms at her side and is made from bisque porcelain — meaning this figure was fired only once.

Any decoration would have been put on “cold” meaning that it was not made permanent by firing in a kiln. This type of tinting is easily worn off with handling and cleaning.

We do not believe that the little bit of color that is now on this piece is original. It looks amateurish — especially the gilding on the base, the coppery colored leaves and the edges of the lady’s clothing. The badly worn red ribbon around her neck may be original, but we are simply not sure about that.

Color applied by Heubach in the factory would have been much, much more professional looking (Heubach did beautiful work). The tinting on this piece looks very much like someone tried to enhance it at one time with a bit of adornment. The perpetrator of this clumsy coloration might have been a child and this leads us to wonder if this may be why the piece has been thought of as being a doll — i.e., a child might have played with this piece by adding the tinting and had it among her other (real) dolls.

As for the value, these bisque porcelain figures are extremely common — but most are not signed by the manufacturer. The fact that this piece is signed by Heubach, a highly desired maker, is a plus.

The lack of any sort of original color on this figure is a big negative, and finding someone who would be interested in it would not be an easy task. It is basically a family heirloom circa 1910 with a minimal monetary value of only about $45 to $60 at retail.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email treasures@knology.net. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.

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