My Antique and Vintage Bleuettes:
Lili, Bertille, Mimi, Madeline, Carine, and Franceline
The study of Bleuette is an on-going process. More is learned about this fascinating little doll every year. Some ideas collectors had about her have been disproved, other facts have been proved, some information is still unknown. No one making and selling these "toys for little girls" could ever have foreseen how valuable and sought-after Bleuette would become to adult doll collectors of the 21st century.
The Bleuettes in my collection are mostly vintage, not yet antique, from the 1915 to 1935 time period. Just a couple of the molds are absent from this small collection. Bleuette was made from multiple porcelain head molds and in two heights, 27 cm and 29 cm (10 & 5/8 inches and 11 & 3/8 inches). During WWI and again during the 1930s, when there were material shortages and economic difficulties, Bleuettes were made from "spare parts." Some specific 28cm (11 inches) dolls were assembled in the 1930s. These are the only exceptions to the 27 and 29 cm size.
On this page we'll look at all the Bleuettes in my own collection, their marks and other special characteristics. We'll start with their heads, molds, painting, and marks, and later look at their articulated wood and composition bodies. You can see examples and learn more about the history of every Bleuette mold on the page, Bleuette's History.
Recently, through the kindness of a Bleuette friend, I was able to add an antique Premiere Bleuette to my collection--she is shown above, and was made in 1905. Let's start with her and go on chronologically. The premiere Bleuette is 27 cm tall (10 & 5/8 inches) with set eyes, 4 set-in teeth, slanted eyelashes, and multiple-stroke eyebrows. She is marked with a 2 on the back, and 1 on the feet. Her head has no other marks than a number 1, or 2, or both. Some may be unmarked. She had a mohair wig, and has the deeply slanted head-cut of a Jumeau doll, covered by a cork pate.
The first or premiere Bleuette was made from a mold purchased by the SFBJ along with all the inventory when the society bought the Jumeau factory and the right to use the Jumeau name. Many people suppose this to be a small Tete Jumeau, but no one really knows. There has been much controversy over the mold, but it was stated many times in the Gautier publications that this doll was a Jumeau bebe. It has been shown by the historian, Samy Odin, that the doll the SFBJ produced was not the same quality as the Tete Jumeau doll produced by Jumeau. She had an SFBJ, not Jumeau, body, and was not as carefully painted. She had less expensive eyes. She was a small doll Gautier could afford to send free to every new subscriber to La Semaine de Suzette, for a very limited time. When the first dolls had been sent out, there was a wait while more were made. The second batch may have been more Jumeau mold dolls, or may have been the 6/0 mold Bleuette--it's still unknown.
The 6/0 Bleuette is 27 cm, has set blue glass eyes, slanted eyelashes, feathered eyebrows, chin dimple, and four set-in teeth. She does not have earring holes or red nostril dots. It is believed that her head was made in Germany from a German mold that the German-born director of the SFBJ, Salomon Fleischmann, brought to the company. She followed the premiere Bleuette. Some experts think this was as early as February 1905, but it has been proved she was definitely being used as Bleuette by 1907. I believe that the mold was one of those used by Fleischmann to make the Eden Bebe for the SFBJ. There is some evidence that Fleischmann contracted with the Theodor Recknagel company to supply these and other "Fleischmann mold" heads for the SFBJ from 1899 to about 1914.
The 6/0, like the premiere Bleuette, had a cork pate, and she had a somewhat slanted head opening in the French style. She had a mohair wig with either a side part and curls, or wavy bangs and curls.
This Bleuette has a replaced mohair wig and cork pate.
This is the only mark on the head of the 6/0 Bleuette--just the size mark 6/0. Sometimes this mark is much larger, sometimes it is accompanied by a small X, or a raised V-shaped figure, or squiggle shape. The number is the German way of designating heads smaller than the German size 0, and is one reason the head is thought to have been German made.
Next in chronological order comes the 60 8/0 Bleuette. In this case the 60 is the mold number, and the 8/0 is the size number. The 60 mold was used by the SFBJ for many sizes of dolls beginning in about 1915 and was discontinued after WWII. The 60 8/0 Bleuette was made from 1915 through about 1924. She is probably the most numerous of the Bleuettes. This example is the earliest 60 8/0 Bleuette in the collection, with set blue eyes, slanted eyelashes, feathered eyebrows, and four set-in teeth.
Next in order is this 60 8/0 Bleuette with blue sleep eyes, slanted eyelashes, single stroke eyebrows, and carved-in teeth.
This 27 cm SFBJ 60 8/0 Bleuette comes from about 1920. She was put together after sleep eyes were introduced in 1919, but her head had already been painted for the earlier set eyes. Her human hair wig is a replacement.
Here is the mark of the 60 8/0 Bleuette, who was sold from 1915 until 1924. Researchers speculate that this head mold was made in Germany because of the German size number. You can also see the clear French size 2 body mark.
Several molds were being used at this time. The dating marks began in 1922 with the mark 22. Some 60 8/0 Bleuettes are marked with letters above the SFBJ mark. PR, D, X, Y, and R are known to exist, but it is not yet known what they mean.
Here is one such Bleuette, who has the mark D above the SFBJ 60 Paris 8/0 mark. This 60 8/0 has single stroke eyebrows and painted lower lashes. Unlike the other 60 8/0s, who have slanted eyelashes, her lashes are painted in a straight line downward, exactly like both the 301 Bleuettes. She has carved-in teeth. At one time she had sleep eyes, but now they are set. She has an older, but not original French wig of human hair.
This photo shows the D mark.
Next comes the 301-1 Bleuette. Besides the premiere Bleuette, she is the only one who has earring holes--you can just barely see one of them in her right ear, below. The earring holes and the numbering system lend credence to the idea that her head was French-made. One foot of this doll has a name and what appears to be the date 1915 written on it, but it is more likely she is a little later--from 1919 to 1922.
She has her original cardboard pate and mohair wig. Her teeth are carved with her mouth, and she has lip accents and feathered eyebrows. She also has blue threaded sleep eyes. Her painted lower eyelashes are straight, not slanted.
Our newest member of the family is this Unis France 251-2. She is 29 cm, and was made between 1933 and 1936. Of all the Bleuette molds, hers is the only character face, and the only one with 2 teeth rather than 4. She has glass sleep eyes, mohair upper lashes and straight painted lower lashes. She has her original pate, and possibly her original human hair wig.
Finally, the last vintage Bleuette is this 301, but a new size and mold which were made after 1933. All Bleuettes made after this date were 29 cm. Her head is marked Unis France 301 and her size mark is 1 & 1/4, at the base of her neck. She is still marked 2 on the back and 1 on each foot, but her size 1 feet are now smaller, and her legs more slender than the 27 cm Bleuettes. She has a replaced human hair wig, original mohair upper eyelashes, straight-painted lower lashes, and carved-in teeth.
See the mark below.
Marks can be deceiving! I show here a doll's feet that had been unscrupulously faked to make them look like size 1 feet, but scratching off the daub of painted plaster revealed the actual size 2 mark.
One clue for collectors is to make sure that the feet of Bleuette are slightly concave. If they have been filled with plaster and re-marked, they will be flat or slightly convex.
This is the correct look of a genuine 1-mark on Bleuette's foot. The 1 has a little foot to stand on, and the hook at the top like the 1 in this text.
This 60 8/0 Bleuette is an example of one of the exceptions to the 27 and 29 cm rule. She is a 28 cm "Sale" Bleuette. Like all other Bleuettes, her body is marked 2 on the back and 1 on the soles of her feet.
She is one of the "close-out sale" Bleuettes put together of spare heads and slightly longer legs in the 1930s, after the size of Bleuette had been changed to 29 cm. G-L Publications did not want to waste any parts when they made the switch to 29 cm, so they created the 28 cm doll to use the spare heads, size 1 lower legs, arms, and older size 2 bodies--but this 28 cm doll could also wear the new fashions and patterns being made for the 29 cm re-designed 301 Bleuette. They charged 5 francs less for the sale Bleuette.
Above is the premier Bleuette's SFBJ-made body, marked 2 on the back and 1 on the sole of each foot. The lighter color body is typical of earlier SFBJ dolls.
The 6/0 Bleuette's body is marked 1 on each foot (some 6/0s have no mark on their slightly smaller feet) and 2 on the back (often under thick paint). Her hands are different than the other Bleuette's hands, they appear more flat, less curved or cupped.
Her body is slightly thinner than later Bleuettes; some premiere Bleuettes have this more slender body, too.
The half-moon knee cap representation is a defining characteristic of Bleuette's lower legs.
In this photo of Bleuette SFBJ 301-1, you can see how to measure a 27cm Bleuette, from the rim of her porcelain head down to the top of her toes. Her wig and pate are not included.
This is the 29 cm 251-2 Bleuette showing her longer legs, but she has the same torso as the 27cm Bleuettes.
This photo shows two 27cm Bleuettes next to their taller 301-1&1/4 sister of 29cm. She has a redesigned body and legs. Her arms are slightly longer, too.
Here is a back view of the same three Bleuettes. All three are marked 2 on the back and 1 on the feet, but the feet of the 29cm Bleuette are noticeably smaller. Some of the extra 2 cms came from the longer thighs, and some from a taller head. The body is differently shaped, especially at the hip where the legs join. All the post-1932 Bleuettes have this same body. Bleuettes of 27 cm have 5cm long thighs with deep notches below the slots for the stringing.
Now compare and contrast these two SFBJ 28 cm dolls. The doll on the left has recently been proved to be a "sale" Bleuette, with 1 marks on the feet, while the doll on the right is a size 8/0 SFBJ Eden Bebe, who has feet marked 2. Their thighs differ and so do their arms, although they are subtle differences. The "sale" Bleuettes have all the correct markings for Bleuette, they may have any head from 1905 to 1932 (with the exception of the premiere head), and they all have thighs of 6cm with smooth, round tops and no notch or indentation. They may have normal or small arms. They were offered for sale at 5 francs less than the new 29cm model Bleuette, to sell off all the spare parts for 27 cm dolls after the change to the new size Bleuette.
From the side you can better see the difference in thighs and in the size 2 versus the size 1 lower legs. The size 2 bodies are identical.