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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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French bisque Jumeau portrait doll, circa 1872, 29 inches high. Sold for $5,750. Photo courtesy of Theriault's
Almond-shaped blue eyes, soft brows; delicate ears, creamy complexion, rosy cheeks, blonde curls.

There is aliveness to this doll. A gentleness. As though time stood still long enough to capture flesh and blood in bisque.

Emile Jumeau, the French maker of this Portrait doll, set out to create the most beautiful dolls in the world in the late-19th century and did. For 56-years, he produced the aristocracy in the doll kingdom.

His dolls were part of a fashion industry that answered a demand for luxury items. Jumeau was the only French doll firm of its period that produced the entire doll under one roof.

Unlike the dolls of today, Jumeau Portrait dolls were not meant to be playthings.

Their purpose was to groom little girls in the ways and means of 19th century etiquette. How to dress. Act. Talk. The code of behavior young girls learned matched the stiff costumes their dolls donned.

Some of the dolls of this era had a “haughty expression” on their face Florence Theriault told me. Florence founded Theriault’s auction house in Annapolis, Md. The Theriault’s have specialized in doll sales for 28-years. “The haughtiness was clearly an adult expression, not a child’s.”

On Jan. 9, 1998, Theriault’s held an auction of Jumeau dolls. The sale featured 221 lots and totaled $850,000. The doll I described was the first sold in the auction. She was a 29-inch bisque featuring a two-piece gown of mauve taffeta silk and a fitted jacket. The doll, circa 1872, sold for $5,750.

“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about collecting dolls of this quality is that it’s only for people with a lot of money,” said Theriault.

“Most of these collectors I see are living on the same kind of income the rest of us have. They just set their priorities. They started out years ago buying dolls they could afford, and gradually traded up in value.”

Other lots in the auction included a bisque smiling bebe known as “E.J.A” Model 25. The head was made of pressed bisque with amber-brown glass enamel eyes, circa 1880. This 25-inch, slightly smiling doll realized $14,500.

A Tete Model, Size 11, bisque bebe Jumeau, circa 1892, and 24-inches-tall, originally sold at Paris department stores. The doll brought $3,900.

“I know a school teacher who has a $5 million doll collection,” said Theriault. “It took her 25-years to put together her collection. But she did it, by buying what she could afford and slowly trading up. There’s no mystery.”

An 18-inch, black bisque doll “Depose 8,” circa 1885, realized $16,000. The head is made of pressed bisque with a rich ebony-black complexion and amber-brown glass enamel inset eyes.

“There are people who say I’ll never be able to afford a Jumeau doll,” said Theriault. “But you can find them in the $3,000-$4,000 range.

Many of the Jumeau dolls in this auction came from French consignors. The American doll market by-and-large is more sophisticated and better established than the French market.

“The collecting in Europe is more private, and people want their dolls sold in America because the economy is stronger,” added Theriault.

“Nowadays doll collectors are more discerning than 25 years ago. They want to know the doll costume is correct. They want to know these are the shoes that came with the doll.”

Theriault’s will send you a free “Doll Information Guide” upon request. Mail a SASE to Theriault’s, Box 151, Annapolis, Md. 21404.

Here are a few titles that may help in your doll research.

“200 Years of Dolls
Identification and Price Guide”
Dawn Herlocher
Published by
Antique Trader Books

“Modern Doll Rarities”
Carla Marie Cross
Published by
Antique Trader Books

“Doll Making and Collecting”
Catherine Christopher
Published by
Dover Publications, Inc.

If you want information about local doll clubs in your area, write to The United Federation of Doll Clubs, 10920 N. Ambassador Drive, Kansas City, Mo. 64153.

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