French Doll History

Good evening everyone! I hope you all have had a great weekend. Are you ready to sit down, relax with a cup of tea, and enjoy reading some French Doll History? About ten to fifteen years ago when my daughter worked for me, she compiled together some history of some of the more popular French Doll Companies. Many who make authentic antique reproductions like to study the history of the original antiques, after having enjoyed these pages on my old website for years, I decided to also move them onto this newer site. This will give you a brief summary of some of the wonderful old French doll makers such as Bru, Jumeau, Steiner, etc.

Just click on the link to the French history doll pages: French Dolls History

Original A. Marque

Original A. Marque

A - Series Steiner

Illustration 32: A-Series Steiner

Illustration 8 - Bru Jne 15

Bru Jne 15

Have a great evening and enjoy a little bit of French Doll History!

Dolly Hugs, Connie Zink

Albert Marque

Original A. Marque

Original A. Marque

Albert Marque (14 July 1872 – 1939) was a French sculptor and doll maker of the late 19th and early 20th century. Marque was born in 1872 in Nanterre, Hauts-de-Seine. He became well-known and respected at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, especially for his sculpting of children.

During World War I, Albert Marque was persuaded by the Parisian couture fashion house of Jeanne Margaine-LaCroix to sculpt one hundred fashion dolls, which were then clothed in custom-made outfits. in 1915, these dolls were exhibited in Paris. Some were sold and others were kept in the Margaine-Lacroix inventory. The dolls were dressed in costumes, often representing regional French royalty or peasantry. They are considered to be artistic works celebrating France and French culture, particularly as a response in wartime to the popularity of German dolls, and created for adults rather than as toys for children.

These dolls became known as “A. Marque” dolls from the mark placed on the dolls by the sculptor. It’s interesting to note the top of the head is cut level, not on a slant as other French dolls. The body was made only for this doll and had unusual side-jointed hips with an attached ball in the joint. Legs are long and slender. Arms below the elbow are bisque and hands were modeled with the same skill as the head. The sculpture of the face is a different from other dolls. Features are sharp and well defined. Ears protrude like a real child. While the forehead curve is typically minimized on French dolls, this is not true of Marque dolls. The Marque had blue or brown paperweight eyes and a closed mouth. All Marque dolls were 22” tall. All were made from the same mold and have the same body.

The dolls have become highly valued in doll collecting. They are generally considered the most desirable dolls by collectors and demand the highest price of any dolls. On July 15, 2009, an A. Marque doll set the world record for an antique doll at auction, fetching US$263,000. This broke the previous world record, also held by an A. Marque doll, of US$215,000.

In her work for the Doll Artisan Guild, Ragnhild Margareta Ericson catalogs twenty-five known A. Marque dolls. Stuart Holbrook, the president of Theriault’s (the leading auction firm dealing with dolls and childhood ephemera), also notes there are only about twenty A. Marque dolls in existence. Holbrook refers to them as the “Holy Grail of collectible dolls”. Holbrook and Theriault’s contribute strongly to the allure of A. Marque dolls. Says Holbrook, “The A. Marque has always been a doll of great mystique for collectors. Every collectible category has that “one piece” – the one item, or name, that blends rarity, beauty, and allure; for dolls it is the Marque, and it will perhaps remain so forever.”

The following educational PDF was created for The Doll Artisan Guild. It contains a lot of interesting information on the A. Marque dolls.

Albert Marque Dolls PDF

Aristide M. Halopeau

We now know that Aristide M. Halopeau is the maker of the doll incised with the block H and size number. Heads are extremely scarce, are exceptionally beautiful, and both heads and bodies are the highest quality. These dolls are a collector’s dream.

We have tracked down the sizes known to collector’s.
Size 0 = 16”
Size 1 = 18”
Size 2 = 20”
Size 3 = 22”
Size 4 = 24”
Size 5 = 27”
There may be larger sizes, but it is doubtful there is a size below 0.

Markings on the heads are located in the same place on each head and done with the same block letters. Sometimes the mark is lightly impressed, and other times it is impressed deeply. The size number comes first followed by the letter H.

The doll making company was in existence before 1890 because all the heads are pressed, not poured porcelain. After 1890 almost all doll-making companies poured porcelain into molds. The quality bisque, the fine paperweight eyes and the beautiful craftsmanship of wood bodies indicate these were at the height of doll-making era. Halopeau could not compete with the other French Firms and in 1889, his business collapsed. The company’s short existence explains the limited supply of H dolls that are in circulation today.

Identifying H-Dolls: The face of an H doll is rather square. Eyes are paperweight sometimes with threading. The H and the number are incised just under the rim of the head.

Illustration 12:

Illustration 12: The H-dolls are of the highest quality and the H1 is a fine example of Halopeau’s fabulous work. Her brows have a light brown shadow brow with lighter feathering on top. The charcoal lashes are finely painted, the eye cuts are black rimmed inside and her eyes are glass blue paperweight. The accented mouth is shaded and the perfect bisque is blushed low on the cheeks with a little on the chin. A light mauve shadows only the eyelids. This rare doll was made in the 1880’s.

Illustration 13: 22” 3H

Illustration 13: 22” 3H – She is perfection plus. Her dramatically large blue eyes will captivate any audience. Her lids are blushed with mauve and her finely painted eyelashes come from a black lined eye cuts. Her soft, two-toned eyebrows are very finely feathered and the mouth is well sculpted and painted. The lips are accented with a darker tone and a white space in between. Her chin and cheeks are blushed to perfection. This doll was sold at a Theriault’s auction on Jan. 6, 1990 for a record-breaking $100,000; at that time, the highest auction price ever paid for a doll in the United States.

Illustration 14: 24” 4H

Illustration 14: 24” 4H – Her eyebrows have a darker shadow brown and an overlay of fine, lighter brown brow strokes. The eye cuts are lined in black and charcoal gray eyelashes encircle the deep dark blue paperweight eyes. Her accented lips have a somewhat darker color between them. There is a light mauve shadow form the eyes to the eyebrows.

Illustration 14: 24” 5H

Illustration 15: 27” 5H – She is beauty personified! Her cheeks were blushed on the outside plumpness and there is only a little blush on her chin. Mauve was blushed above her deep blue paperweight eyes. The eye cuts are lined in black and encircled with black eyelashes. The mouth is molded with slightly parted lips and were finely painted and accented. The brows are a darker shadow brow overlaid with many lighter strokes.

Francois Gauliter


Illustration 11 – 31” F.G.

Francois Gauliter has been a mystery doll maker. It has been hard to find much information on him. He made bisque doll heads and limbs, as well as all-bisque dolls. On December 2, 1872 he took out a patent for the improvement of molds for making dolls’ heads. In 1884 his firm became Gaultier and Son and again in 1888 the name changed to Gaultier Brothers. In 1899 Gaultier Brothers become part of the SFBJ company but not part of the land or premises.

As far as collectors are concerned dolls with the markings F.G. are referred to as Gaultier’s. Heads marked F.G. are painted in a style of their own. F.G. heads and dolls are valuable to a collector because they are made of fine bisque and are well decorated.

There are three types of bodies on F.G. dolls – wood, wood and composition, and Gesland bodies. Bodies by Gesland are made of a padded metal armature covered with knit fabric.

Some small, later F.G. dolls are not as well painted and bisque is not the same quality. One detail that alerts us to the difference is low painting of nostril color, which makes the doll appear as if it has a bloody nose.

Henri Delcroix


Illustration 10 – PAN

His name might not sound familiar to you. One of the reasons could be that he did not join with the SFBJ. Henri Delcroix made dolls between 1865 and 1887 in Paris and among other cities in France. There are many marks attributed to Delcroix: “GD Paris”, “Paris HD”, and “Paris PAN”. Henri Delcroix registered the trademark “PAN” in 1887.

These dolls can be identified at a glance by their large round eyes. They are of the type that once you have passed by, you do a double take.

House of Bru

When discussing Bru dolls, we must speak of the “House of Bru”, because many companies utilized the Bru name after the business was no longer owned or operated by Bru.

The Company
Leon Casimir Bru had worked as a doll assembler for a short time before deciding to start his own business. In 1866, the Bru Company was the first doll manufacturer to be settled on the Rue Saint Denis in Paris, France. Later, other doll makers followed.

Lady Fashion Bru dolls were assembled by Leon Casimir Bru and his wife, Appolyne. The heads were fashioned by R. Barrios. Appolyne, a seamstress, provided the elaborate costumes for the lovely dolls.

In 1876, the first doll in the Bébé line, Breveté, was produced. In 1879, the second doll in the Bébé line, the Circle Dot Bru, sometimes referred to as a Crescent Bru, was introduced. By 1880, the third doll in the Bébé line, Bru Jne, was in production.

In 1883, the Bru Company was sold to Henri Chevrot. Under Chevrot’s leadership, the company name changed to “Bru Jne. & Cie.”, which stands for Bru Junior and Company. Henri Chevrot added a new body for the Bru Jne head. Usually this body is referred to as the “Chevrot Body”. It features a slimmed down tummy and hips, lower legs of wood, and pin joints at the elbows & knees. The lower arms were bisque with a few exceptions of wood.

During the time of Chevrot’s ownership the Bru dolls that we all know and love were produced. It was the fine craftsmanship and wonderful designs of Chevrot’s Bru Jne dolls that won so many gold medals. These are the Bru dolls that stand in our cases and represent the the ultimate in doll making.

In 1889, the House of Bru changed hands again when Paul Girard took over. Girard altered the Bru Jne from the old master molds to a look that was barely recognizable. Girard made teeth, open mouths, and altered the chin. He made kiss-throwing Brus, walking Brus, and other inventions. He also added an “R” to the signature. The company continued to manufacture Bru dolls until 1899. At that point, the company was assimilated into S.F.B.J. (the Societe Francaise de Fabrication de Bebes and Jouets).

S.F.B.J. absorbed most of the major French makers of dolls, because German bisque doll competition became nearly overwhelming. At this time, the French companies no longer produced bisque or porcelain heads themselves. It was less expensive to import pieces from Germany than to manufacture their own. Nevertheless, S.F.B.J. continued to produce the Bebe le Teteur Bru into the next century.

The Molds
Studies of Bébé Bru faces have determined there were only three master molds. The earliest of the children dolls was the unmarked Bébé Bru Breveté. The second master mold was the Circle Dot or Crescent Bébé Bru. The third master mold was Bébé Bru Jne. Each of these heads were sculpted by Leon Casimir Bru and all the master molds had been completed before Chevrot purchased the business.

Hundreds of different Bru faces were all conceived from these master molds. In fact, all various Bru Jne faces were taken from the same mold. The seeming differences were mere alterations made by cutting the eyes larger or smaller and by the removal of the teeth or tongue line. Other subtle differences were made in the painting, shape of the brows, and the shape of the lips. Even the color of the eyes changed the Bru so that while one was spectacular, another was mediocre. However, the basic shape was left untouched.

The same hand molds were used repeatedly. The first hand, with curved under fingers on the Breveté was only used on the Breveté. The ballerina hands were the loveliest and most artistic hands made by any company at that time. The hands were first used on short arms that went into a leather sleeve, then used as well as the pin-jointed, elbow length arms. Apparently, these forearms were not resized with every head reduction, but were used in one size for all three head sizes. Other Bru hands were made of wood and none were shaped like the ballerina hands.

The Bodies
This list outlines the chronological production sequence of Bru bodies. It’s important to note the duration of production periods for these various body types overlap.

  1. Leather and wood Lady Fashion bodies.
  2. Breveté chubby leather body, leather lower legs, bisque lower arms.
  3. Circle and Dot chubby leather body, leather lower legs, bisque lower arms.
  4. All wood eight-jointed Lady Fashion body.
  5. Gusseted leather body, leather lower legs, bisque lower arms.
  6. Slim leather body(Chevrot), pin-jointed wood lower legs and pin-jointed bisque lower arms.
  7. Slim leather body(Chevrot), pin-jointed wood lower legs and pin-jointed wood lower arms.
  8. All wood body multi-jointed Bébé body.
  9. Composition body.
  10. Kiss-throwing composition body.

Many people think that composition Bru bodies were only implemented late in production. However after much research, we discovered composition bodies were used on early productions of the Bru Jne, but they were not very popular. After 1890, composition bodies were frequently utilized by Paul Giraud.

The Dolls

Lady Fashion Bru
The earliest Bru dolls were the Poupée de Mode (literal translation is Doll of Fashion), or Lady Fashion Doll, sometimes referred to as “Smiling Bru” or “Mona Lisa Bru”. These were produced from 1866 to 1885 and featured bodies of goatskin leather and wood. These early production Bru dolls were marked with a letter indicating a size number and nothing else. Later, Lady Fashion dolls were marked “R.B.” (Barrios), “B.Jne et Cie.”, or “B.J.”.

By 1869, Leon Casimir Bru advertised Lady Fashion dolls featuring all wood bodies. These were jointed at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees, and ankles.

Bébé Bru Breveté
Breveté was the first Bébé Bru doll (literal translation is Baby Bru). These were produced from 1876 to 1880. Bébé Bru Breveté dolls featured beautifully formed and delicate molded head, mounted on a shoulder-plate, which was then attached to a goatskin leather body. These dolls also featured bisque lower arms with beautiful cupped hands and each fingernail outlined in pink. The lower legs were made of goatskin leather. For identification, it had only a sticker on the chest.

At the time, all other French companies Placed their first Bébé heads on composite bodies. However, Leon Casimir Bru was already producing leather bodies for his Lady Fashion dolls. So he fashioned leather bodies in child-like proportions for his Bébé Bru Breveté.

Circle Dot Bébé Bru
The Circle Dot Bru, sometimes referred to as a “Crescent Bru”, was produced from 1879 to 1885 and featured a leather body. These Bru dolls also featured bisque lower arms. The lower legs were made of leather. These Bru dolls were marked with the circle and dot mark, which is a dot under a half-circle or in a full circle.

Bébé Bru Jne
The Bru Jne was produced from 1880 to 1890 and featured various types of body constructions. Some of these dolls featured an all wood body, jointed at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. This construction was wonderful for posing a doll. With these joints the dolls could be posed in nearly any position. However, it proved too expensive and time consuming to manufacture such bodies. As a result, very few were produced. Most of these dolls featured either a gusseted leather body with bisque lower arms, a slim leather body and pin jointed bisque lower arms, a slim leather body with pin jointed wooden lower arms, or a composition body. These Bru dolls were marked with “Bru Jne”.

Bébé Bru Jne R
The Bru Jne R was produced from 1890 to 1899. These Bru dolls were marked with “Bru Jne R”.

Transitional Bru Dolls
Between each production period, transitional dolls were produced. These dolls possessed parts from both the old and new production lines.

Novelty Bru Dolls
Bru also made a set of unique novelty dolls:

  • Bébé Musique – featured a mechanism which played music.
  • Bébé lé Teteur – also referred to as the “Nursing Bru”, was the most popular Bru doll ever produced and featured a mechanism that would draft liquid from a baby bottle.
  • Bébé Gourmand – also referred to as the “Eating Bru”, featured a mechanism which allowed children to feed the doll. Dry food was put into the mouth. It then fell down through the body to the feet. The shoes were designed with little flaps to remove the food. This particular doll possessed very heavy and chubby bisque legs that were not used on any other Bru.

NOTE: There were many other patents and inventions from the House of Bru, but those most treasured by antique doll collectors have been mentioned here.