No, brusing is not a typo. I meant to write that. In fact, I just made it up. Go ahead, ask any antique doll collector what their ‘dream doll’ is and I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts (… no, I didn’t make that expression up, my mother did), the answer will be a “Bru.”
If you are not a doll collector let me just get a couple of things straight right off the bat – (1) I am not an expert on Bru dolls; and (2) French bisque dolls deserve to be at the top of every collector’s want list. Come to think of it, there are really three things you need to know – Bru are expensive. I mean really expensive, for an inanimate (and some might say darn right spooky) object d’art. But I digress; expensive is relative, after all.
After receiving two emails in as many days from customers mentioning Bru’s, their general availability and cost to own, I started to ponder the huge part serendipity played in buying my Bru without a second mortgage on my home. And then I made up my new word, brusing – or in laymen’s term, “browsing for Bru.” FYI: I don’t yet dare make that a plural – Bru’s – so for now, I will thank my lucky stars, all the planets and any friendly spirits of the ghostly persuasion that helped me find my own little Bru.
By way of introduction, the dolls I am raving about were created in Paris, France by Leon Casmir Bru, his wife and a succession of owners circa 1860-1890 give or take a decade. They are superior dolls in quality, construction and clothing – and valued at staggering price points depending on style, mold and costume. And what we in the doll collecting world like to call ‘The Face’, which actually drives more value than a Yugoslavian import. A doll’s great beauty, her face, her expression, speaks to the heart of the collector and to the expertise of the artist who painted her. I have seen Bru sell for $13,000 - $65,000 and up. And then there is what I actually paid for mine - $195. Like I said, serendipity.
Ok, to be fair – Bru values fluctuate even within a mold type or a style range. My Bru, as much as I love her, is not a head liner or even a head turner. She is a small 13 inch fashion doll with a sweet little face but with a less desirable kid leather body. If she had a jointed wooden body, I would still be doing cartwheels but at $195, a little happy dance every time I see her is certainly warranted. Wouldn't you do a little jig, too??
What makes her such a great find is how I bought her - sight unseen from an international auction house. It was in the early days of online bidding. The description in the catalog was less than five words – no size, no condition, nadda, zip, zilch. There was just a single out of focus image of a doll on a table with only the outline of her clothing and her feet visible. But something about her little feet caught my eye – the shape of those shoes. I try to keep it under wraps but someday will have to seriously confront my doll shoe fetish!
Back to the auction…. I didn’t have time to ask questions, I couldn’t email for information– the auction was live and the moment was, well, it was “now or never”. My mouse finger hit BID and I held my breath – and NO ONE bid against me! I won her! Euphoria! Then my heart sank when I realized that no one at the live auction had bid – no one else wanted her. Oh no, was she a reproduction? Was she broken? How could I have been so stupid! I paid for my purchase and anxiously waited several weeks for her to arrive. In the meantime, I received absolutely no contact from the auction house, no response to my emails for shipping information.
Now here’s the real jaw-dropping serendipitous part – Earnestine, my perfect little Bru fashion doll with her original clothes, straw bonnet, wig, and all her immaculate unmentionables embroidered with tiny letter E’s, was shipped to me – in a padded mailer! No bubble wrap, no tissue, no packing peanuts, no box. All 13 inches of her, fragile bisque head and kid body with those incredibility tiny individual fingers, was stuffed into a large first class envelope for mailing books and documents. And she arrived without a scratch, a chip, a crack or even a bent finger.
I don’t know about you, but in my world – that is a “meant to be!”