French dolls catch collectors' fancy

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Doll collecting is big business today. Demand mounts for every style, from famous French fashion dolls to the charmingly worn rag dolls frontier mothers created for their lonely children.

Auction sale prices continue to set records as dealers and collectors vie for high-quality dolls being offered this spring.

An exquisite Bru doll consigned to Theriault's February Florida auction set an American doll record when it fell under the hammer for $16,500.

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The Riddell family was cleaning the attic of their South Carolina home when they found a doll they unwittingly consigned to the rubbish barrel.

That same evening, doll experts George and Florence Theriault were interviewed on a South Carolina TV show.Impressed by the information gained from this interview, the Riddells retrieved their attic find from the rubbish heap and turned it over to the Theriaults for sale.

The doll, circa 1875, proved to be an outstanding example of the workmanship of Casimir Bru, a Parisian dollmaker.

Bru's dolls were not even considered the finest of their day. The Jumeau family created lovelier dolls, described at the time as "elegant and in good taste."

Jumeau operated a dollmaking factory at Montreuil in France from 1844 to 1898 . At first he imported doll heads from German dollmakers. He was noted for the fine fashions his creations wore.

In 1862 M. Jumeau, determined to produce the world's most beautiful doll, developed his own doll-head manufacturing process. These dolls are easily recognized today for their lovely features and overlarge, expressive eyes made of enamel.

During this time Bru was also manufacturing dolls, but his production never reached the peak produced by Jumeau. The fact that all Bru dolls were clearly identified by BRU imprinted on the shoulder, and their scarcity, contributes to their high demand in the marketplace today.

In 1898 Bru and Jumeau combined and formed "La Societe Franaise de Fabrication des Bebes et Jouets." dolls manufactured by this firm are found with heads marked BRU and bodies by Jemeau, or vice versa. This compounds the confusion for collectors of these charming creations.

An outstanding collection of dolls from the Strong Museum of Rochester, N.Y., will be auctioned April 24 and 25 in Concord, N.H. Both Bru and Jumeau are included in the wide selection offered. Auctioneer Dick Withington expects that another record will be set by this sale.

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