Produced to the very highest standards using expensive materials and exquisite craftsmanship, Bru dolls were made in France 1866-1899. Sold in far smaller numbers than Jumeau dolls, the high quality of Bru dolls made them the preserve of the very rich. Even for wealthy youngsters, a Bru doll would have been among the most prized objects in a well-equipped nursery.
The best-known Bru doll is the “Bru Jne”, made in the 1880s and named after the maker’s mark found on the doll’s body. Heads and lower arms were made from Bisque. Doll’s also had distinctively deep bisque shoulder plates with small molded breasts. Faces were beautifully modeled with closed mouths and large eyes in Paperweight glass. The cork Pate to the top of the head was topped with an attractive wig of hair set in a style complementing the doll’s fashionable clothes. The body was made of kid, sometimes with wood elements. Today, good Bru Jne dolls can be worth up to £15,000, depending on condition and size, or more for exceptional examples. (The Bru Jne doll shown to the left was once owned by the Queen of Romania). Be aware that a crack to the face can reduce value by 50 per cent or more. Despite the reduced value, a cracked doll can remain very appealing to collectors, particularly those on a budget, especially if the facial features of the doll remain intact.
In 1889, a new version of the Bru Jne was introduced. Known as Bru Jne “R”, this later doll had a bisque head and a jointed composition body marked with “Bru Jne R” and a size number. Although popular with collectors, values are typically far lower than for the early Bru Jne doll.
Other dolls by Bru are also highly sought-after today. Bru Poupée fashion ladies, made in a number of styles from 1866, can be worth around £2,000-6,000 or more depending on condition and rarity. A baby “Circle Dot” Bru, named after its distinctive mark and made between 1879 and 1884, can now be worth around £6,000-15,000 or more. Bru “Breveté” dolls, made 1879-1880, can be similarly valuable.
In 1899 Bru became part of SFBJ, a syndicate of French doll makers who banded together to compete with the German doll-making industry.