Porcelain Doll Accessories - Cleaning and Repairing Porcelain Dolls
Porcelain bisque dolls reached their popularity because of their ability to
closely emulate the look of human skin. Because of this and the initially
very high price of manufacture, even the earliest models started
incorporating the current fashion trends into their design. Since they were
originally mostly offered to wealthier adult purchasers, lifelike bisque
dolls were clothed in fashionable clothes that became more and more
elaborate as decades went, and the facial and hair makeup that closely
resembled the latest trends in the countries and times where those dolls
were created. A large amount of antique German bisque dolls were sold
naked, without any clothes. This was done so that parents could motivate
their children to learn how to sow and quickly create different styles of
clothing (since it was easier and more fun to create small clothing pieces
for dolls than themselves). French dolls not only came with clothing and
makeup already applied during manufacture and assembly, but their
popularity also caused the emergence of the separate clothing and accessory
production industry that catered to the doll collectors in late 19th
Since the most popular collector bisque dolls of the 19th century had adult
look and proportions, their clothes were also adult-like. Those early
models of higher-end bisque dolls (which were sometimes created in not only
limited quantities but also ordered specifically to suit the needs of
wealthy collectors) became an obsession of the new generations of
collectors who became obsessed with not only the antique dolls dressed in
elaborate clothes, but also simpler models that were mass produced by
several manufacturers in both Europe and North America. French
fully-clothed dolls were mass produced, and the creation of unique clothing
pieces and full elaborate dresses was very popular. Wealthier owners even
had enough funds to not only order their uniquely personalized sets of
dolls (which are considered some of the most prized antique dolls today).
The most expensive antique doll ever sold to date (valued at $300,000) was
created under the orders of Parisian couturier Jeanne Margaine-LaCroix in
1916 who wanted to own 100 unique dolls that were designed by the famous
French sculptor Albert Marque. Around the same time, bisque dolls were also
used as fashion accessories of famous French actresses who dressed up dolls
to closely resemble them.
Years of use and decades of storage can eventually lead to the damaging of
the dolls. Bisque dolls are very susceptible to damage since their base is
created from the very fragile material, and their clothes and wigs are not
made to be exceptionally durable. Hugs, playing, transport and storage and
many other things can cause an incredible variety of bumps, bruises, broken
or torn parts, chipping, tattering, molding of hair, missing parts, broken
arms and much more. Take note that any sort of repair, or larger
restorations can reduce the value of the dolls, which is the reason why so
many owners strive to keep their dolls always as authentic as possible,
especially their facial features and clothing. Depending on the needs and
wishes of the owner, bisque dolls can be brought to better state either by
themselves or by professional companies or technicians (repairs cost from
below $100 to above $1000 depending on the condition of the doll and
materials needed) who are well versed in the following techniques:
– Most common set of procedures for fixing the lightly damaged dolls. It
includes gluing of the broken parts, fixing the hair wig or mending the
torn clothes or filling up the most visible skin artifacts.
– Returning the doll in the original condition, which includes the state of
the body, clothes, facial features, wig and hair styling. Restoration of
the materials can be done with original materials if they are available, or
with new materials that closely mimic the look and feel of the original.
– Stabilizing of the look and state of the doll so that it can survive in
an unchanged state for the prolonged time. Techniques for the preservation
of the dolls stage include repairing of the little issues before they can
grow into serious problems – filling up smaller skin cracks, keeping hair
wig clean from early onsets of mold, treating an insect infestation,
resetting loose eyes and more.
The problems that can afflict bisque dolls are very numerous, and they can
cause dolls to have anything from the small problems that can be easily
fixed by anyone to the extreme wear effect that can make them almost
worthless. The most severe wear issues can be heavy cracking straight
across the face, missing parts of the face porcelain, strong reactions of
the porcelain surface to the heat, rotting or infestation of the internal
stuffing of the doll, disintegrated wigs or clothing and more.
Here are some tips for home repair of certain damage types of bisque dolls:
Cleaning bisque porcelain
– Renaissance Wax and Orvus soap can be used to clean and preserve the
surface of the dolls.
Cleaning cloudy eyes
– Many dolls have eyes made from glass that can become cloudy. That can be
fixed with Renaissance Wax cleaning. Machine oil or nail polish should
never be used!
– Older dolls can have very delicate wigs that loose hair easily. Use
extreme care when combing dolls hair. Pin Combs or hat/tapestry pins can be
used for (lengthy and hard) fixing some of the messiest and most fragile
– The basic body parts of most dolls (head, torso, and two legs and hands)
are held with the internal strings. When stringing doll make sure that the
parts are not held too strongly because that can damage the rotating
– If the body of the doll is misshapen, that can actually be fixed.
Treating the doll to the humidifier for at least two weeks, can make a doll
bendable enough so that the body can be slowly reshaped.
– The best glue for sticking broken composition piece to the doll's body is
PVA glue, which is PH-neutral, archival and fully reversible.
– It’s possible to create new doll pieces with molds created from Cernit
and modeled from Darwi.
– This is one of the least durable materials often used for dolls. Keep
doll out of the sunlight to protect it from celluloid rot.
– White paper is used in accessorizing of some dolls. It can be cleaned
with Knox pencil (a white vinyl eraser). Emergency repairs can be performed
with Fimoplast. Additional compounds can be put over the paper to make it
– Leather cloth of dolls can be cleaned and preserved by the “British
Museum Leather Dressing” compound.
– Painting of the dolls has to be done with water-based acrylic colors.
- Ceramic parts must be cleaned with salts. Never use chlorine.