Antiques Column with Michael Dowse: Dolls with a collectible appeal

The Heubach factory was established in Lichte, Germany in 1843 after brothers Georg Christoph and Phillipp Jakob purchased an existing porcelain business.

They initially made porcelain dolls’ heads and other figurines.

But later, as the fashion for using bisque travelled to Germany from France where they had been experimenting with it from the late 1860s, Heubach began to use bisque as their main material from about 1910.

While the porcelain dolls were glazed and therefore shiny, the bisque allowed for a much more realistic skin tone as they remained unglazed; initially fired and then re-fired after layers of decoration had been applied.

It was very uncommon to find a doll made completely of bisque as it was so delicate and breakable.

Most dolls had bodies made of cloth or leather and later composition, a substance made by mixing glue with sawdust or wood pulp.

Heubach made figurines completely in bisque, most famously their range of piano babies.

The piano babies were, as the name suggests, figurines of babies which many households sat upon their piano; perhaps just as decoration or more often than not to hold in place the fabric that often adorned grand pianos, as was fashionable at the time.

The babies were often nude but were also made with carefully painted clothes and bonnets.

They ranged from about four to twelve inches in length and the babies posed in a variety of positions.

They are difficult to find in mint condition due to the fragile nature of bisque.

Other companies also made these ‘Piano’ babies but Heubach’s are all marked.

Heubach marks include the word ‘Heubach’ enclosed in a square and more commonly on the ‘Piano’ babies, a sunburst.