To the novice or new doll collector, the term “parian” has little meaning. But these porcelain bisque dolls, with their name originating from the Greek Island of Paros, are readily admired by veteran antique doll collectors.
These dolls are made of unglazed bisque that is also finished without a wash of color. This material was similar to other discoveries: an accident. Artisans were attempting to discover a formula for unglazed porcelain biscuit. Actually parian is an unglazed bisque porcelain, some refer to it as untinted bisque. Finishes depend on the manufacturer; some are quite coarse, others quite fine in texture.
These dolls were not originally intended to be toys, but, according to one source, were made in Germany between 1855 and 1885 and introduced in limited numbers to be placed on such articles as pin cushions.
Attention to hair. The doll heads had molded hairstyles ranging from simple to elaborate. Legend has it that the most elaborate decorative hairdo originated in Paris.
Beautifully painted. The finished casting produced a doll head with a very dead white appearance, which gave the imaginative painter a desire to improve its appearance. Soon, golden yellow, pinks, blues, reds and various hues of purple, were applied with vigor to bring a life appearance to a previous flat, dull white surface.
Occasionally, the ears were pierced to hold tiny, glittering pressed glass earrings.
And often, a separate item, i.e., braided coronets, curls, chignons or curls or piled up were added and enhanced with combs, jewels of several types or touches of gold paint highlighting areas.
Most of the doll heads had blond hair coloring due to the porous surface, (darker colors required an extra firing and due to production demands, this latter coloration is uncommon). The eyes were molded in the head; one with glass eyes is a rarity.
A limited number of men’s heads were produced, A parian head doll is especially complete with parian arms and legs all fastened to a cotton stuffed body.