Postcard Image

Postcard Image
As the Victorian era passed into the Edwardian and Roaring Twenties, a market developed for bisque and china bawdy novelties and figurines of women in revealing outfits. Although now most of these figurines seem more coy and cute than ribald and risque, in their time they symbolized the casting off of the perceived restraints of the Victorian era.

These little lovelies included bathing beauties, who came clad in swimsuits of real lace or in stylish painted beach wear, as well as mermaids, harem ladies, and nudies, who were meant to wear nothing more than an engaging smile. Also produced were flippers, innocent appearing figurines who reveal a bawdy secret when flipped over, and squirters, figurines that were meant to squirt water out of an appropriate orifice.

Most were manufactured in Germany from the late 1800s through the 1930s, often showing remarkable artistry and imagination, with Japan entering the market during World War I.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Packing a Punch

This boxing belle may be related to the sultry sultana featured earlier on this blog.  Of high quality plaster, she shares the same slender modeling, unusual angular face with narrow eyes, and round reddish-brown base.  Wearing her original mohair wig, this pulchritudinous pugilist is 10.5 inches tall and, unfortunately, unmarked.  I wonder if she was originally costumed, and if so, how.  The modeling of her arms against her abdomen would have made dressing difficult, and her stylish high heels would appear out of place in the boxing ring.

However, in the 1927 silent film, "Rough House Rosie," star Clara Bow appeared in boxing garb, complete with pumps. Known as the "It Girl," Bow, with her head full of henna curls and vivacious, carefree persona, personified the young women of the flapper era. The movie was meant as a vehicle for Bow, one of the period's most popular actresses, so it is quite possible that some manufacturer created a pretty plaster prizefighter "inspired" by Bow in her brief boxing attire.  Unfortunately, the film has been lost, with only the trailer and some still photographs remaining. 

A close up of her face shows the meticulous modeling, including parted lips exposing a row of tiny teeth.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Itty Bitty Bathing Beauties

A mere 1.75 inches high, including her base, this tiny china bathing beauty is surprisingly detailed and delicately decorated.  Her unusual base has a channel around rim with sew hole on each side.  Although marked only with a freehand "g" in black inside the base, she can be definitely attributed to the German firm of William Goebel.

One reason I can be so certain of my attribution is this quartet of diminutive damsels who have been featured earlier on this blog.  Although only 2.5 inches high, the figurine of the beach belle in the hooded “wicker" beach chair is incised underneath with the Goebel crowned intertwined “G” and “W” and what appears to be “P.O.” over “641.”  This is the only piece of the quartet that is marked.  She strikes a similar pose as that of the petite pincushion miss, with her hands tucked under her knees and her legs crossed at the ankle, though hers are left over right.  However the 1.25-inch long and high seated bathing beauty in red, who is clearly part of this series, is the identical model as that used on the pincushion base.  The reclining lady in red is 2.5 inches long and the decorator has added dots of blush to her knees.  The gal in green is a mere 2 inches long.  All these tiny treasures beautifully modeled and decorated considering their amazingly small size.  

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Cat May Look at a King. . ..

. . . but in this case, this curious kitty is looking at something of a far more intimate nature.  No doubt another play on the double entendre regarding an affectionate name for a cat and vulgar slang for a woman's private parts, this prurient pussycat appears to be peering up her mistress's skirt.  This 4.25-inch tall bisque figurine is incised only “6435” on the back of the chair, but is certainly of German origin.  

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Playing Doctor

This lounging lady is of ivory and hails from China.  Such reclining nude carvings are called "doctor's dolls," based on claims that in ancient China a proper woman would not allow a doctor to physically examine her and would instead point out the ailing area on an ivory figurine of a nude woman.  Some experts challenge the truth of this tale, arguing that these carvings were erotic in nature and never intended to be used for diagnosis.  Whether these carvings were meant for therapeutic or titillation purposes, they were popular from the 1800s through the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ban on the ivory trade in 1989.  Many were produced just for the tourist trade; when I visited China and Hong Kong in 1988, I saw scads of these scantily clad ladies in shop windows seeking to tantalize tourists and their dollars.  Most of these so-called doctor's dolls strike a standard pose, the lady lying on her side, leaning on one elbow, the other hand cupping a breast or modestly covering her crotch, with tiny bound feet clad in pointed slippers.  The carving varies from exquisite to mediocre and it is not uncommon to find a piece has been artificially aged by staining or heating to produce "age cracks."  This ivory belle appears to be an older piece and is more unusual as she is lying on her back and has dainty bare feet.  The carving is quite good, even indicating some structure to her abdomen, as well as details such as her flowing hair and her flower.  

Her lacquer stand was carved especially for her, with indentations conforming to her curves.  Unfortunately, years ago it appears that someone tried to secure her to her stand with tape and the remnants of the adhesive have eaten into the finish.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Rambling Female Sailor

With jacket blue and trousers white
Just like a sailor neat and tight
Sure the sea it was the heart's delight
Of the female rambling sailor.

When in storm upon the raging sea
She was ready at her station
And her mind was as calm as calm could be
She loved her occupation.

                                                                             Rambling Female Sailor, circa 1830s

In the old folk songa young and pretty maiden decides to dress as a sailor and run off to sea.  Although this bathing beauty wears a swimsuit rather than "jacket blue and trousers white," she certainly appears to be calm and content as she sails her rather undersized schooner over the bounding main.  Of good china, this sea-going siren is actually a trinket or powder box.  Incised above waves on the back “Germany 10782, this belle and her boat are 5.5 inches high and 4 inches tall. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Supreme Flash of 1927

This flirtatious flapper certainly has a lot of flash in her form-fitting gold glitter bathing suit.  Of plaster, this golden girl is 16 inches tall.

Her sparkling slippers stand on a base incised "© N.S. Statuary Co." 

This advertisement from the May 28, 1927, edition of "The Billboard," a publication for carnival concessionaires, features the same glittery gal by North Side Statuary Company of Chicago, Illinois.  Entitled "The Supreme Flash of 1927," the ad declares that this "new original copyrighted" bathing beauty doll is "already proven the biggest money-getter this year."  This shimmery sea-side siren is described as "natural flesh tone with highly attractive metallic bathing suit" who looks like she "just stepped out of the surf" and is a "Bathing Beach Banner Money Getter." Sounds like she's a bit of a gold digger! Packed 20 to a barrel, these twinkling tootsies were one dollar each.  

For an inexpensive carnival prize, this bathing belle is surprisingly well sculpted and decorated, with a most appealing presence.  No doubt she tempted quite a number of nickels out of the rubes' pockets in her heyday. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Cryselephantine Coquette

Chryselephantine in ancient times meant a statue of wood, with a thin veneer of ivory representing skin and gold leaf picking out other details, such as clothing. The term is also used to describe statuettes produced during the art nouveau and art deco periods with parts of finely carved ivory inset into bronze or other materials.  This voluptuous bathing beauty is by Peter Tereszczuk, renown for his cryselephantine creations.  Born in the Ukraine in 1875, Tereszczuk studied sculpting in Vienna, Austria.  Most of his statuettes, representing everything from the innocence of childhood to erotica, were produced in Vienna from the 1890s through the 1920s.  This 6.5 inch tall belle of ivory and bronze  (including her marble base) is garbed in a bathing suit from the early 1900s, but her bust and arms are of ivory.  From the front, she presents the viewer with a bit more leg than would be proper at the seaside as she nonchalantly adjusts one of her garters.  

However, a view of the back reveals that this little seaside siren needs to adjust more than her garter, as a naughty zephyr has blown up the skirt of her bathing outfit, exposing her bare bottom of subtly sculpted ivory.  

A close up of her serene exquisite face and slender graceful arms displays the superb carving of the ivory.  

The left side of the bronze base is  marked  with the intertwined "T" and "U" of the Tereszczuk-Ullmann foundry and "P. Tereszczuk."

The back of the base is incised "Made in Austria."

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Prima Ballerina

This beautiful bisque ballerina by Galluba and Hofmann is 7.25 inches high and 6 inches long.  A hole in the sole of her left foot fits over a supporting rod, allowing her to pose gracefully on tip toe.  She is unusual not only because of her pose, but also because she comes clad in a molded bustier, but no other undergarments. I added the tutu made out of antique gold mesh lace to cover her naked nether regions and maintain this delicate dancer's dignity.  The wood base is not original; she may have once posed on a pincushion, candy box, or bisque base.

A close up of her extraordinarily lovely face.  This ballet belle wears her original mohair wig

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Happy New Year!

Ending this year with a very different type of gal by Galluba and Hofmann.  This 4.5 inch tall little girl with her pet piglet is coated with finely ground bisque referred to as "snow."  Such snow children, often referred to as "snow babies," were first made in Germany in the early 1890s and were popular Christmas decorations through the early years of the 1900s.  Galluba produced a variety of such snow children figurines with different decorative treatments.  Some like this example were tinted with a soft faint golden brown wash, giving the appearance of ivory or alabaster, while the snow is a faint gray or slate. Others were fully colored.  Sometimes the snow covered just the base and was lightly sprinkled over the children's heads and shoulders and in other examples it completely covered the children's clothing.  The snow might be left realistically white or, when it coated clothing, colored blue.  As with all Galluba figures, the quality of the modeling and workmanship was always high.  Her piglet pal holds a four-leaf clover, a sign of good luck, in its mouth.  In Germany the pig itself was also considered a sign of good luck and prosperity. A person who is lucky might say "Ich habe schwein gehabt" (I have had pig). It is traditional to give gifts of candy pigs known as glücksschweinchen (good luck pigs) at Christmas and New Years and such propitious pigs were often featured on Christmas and New Year postcards.  Underneath, this snow child and her swine are incised "4644."  Galluba used a 4000 series number on its snow figurines.  Not all lasses with lucky pigs are so sweet and innocent; earlier on this blog I posted some more adult-oriented examples of German glücksschweinchen.

Here is a colored version offered by Theriault's, sharing the base with a little boy.  These charming children are 4.5 inches high and incised "4666."  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In the Mode

This fashionable fräulein clad in the epitome of Edwardian elegance takes her shaggy terrier for a stroll.  Her formfitting gown of emerald green and black is textured fine flocking, giving it the appearance of fabric.  This 7 inch tall bisque vase is incised “1071” on bottom back edge of vase.

She is part of a series of fashionable figures by Hertwig and Company of German, advertised in their catalogue as "Figuren mit Paperhüten und mit Tuchschur bemalt" (figures with paper hats and painted flocking). This lady has lost her original crepe paper hat and mohair wig, which someone has replaced with a turban of blonde mink.  As this catalogue picture shows, she has lost not only her original headdress, but also her male companion, as the set was advertised as "Paar Modefiguren" (pair of fashion figures).  The difference in the model number in the catalogue may be related to size, as the pictured set was advertised as 13 centimeters tall, or just over five inches in height.    

A close up of her face, showing the flirtatious glance and subtle smile she once granted to her now absent gentleman admirer.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Gentle as a Lamb

The lovely lady with her loving lambkin is a big and very unusual figural powder dish.  The little lamb is the dish and a fluffy powder puff forms its fleece.

 Superbly sculpted from all sides, this piece is 6.5 inches long and 5 inches.  It is incised underneath “13746.”

Her slim, rather square face with narrow elongated eyes resembles those of certain delightful deco damsels by Gebruder  Heubach.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Rarity by Riera?

This elegant Edwardian is all original, from the top of her jaunty chapeau to the bottom of her velvet-covered box base (except for the antique paper rose I added to hide some damage to her left fingertips).  Twelve inches tall, she has a bisque head and limbs on an armature body.  

Although there are no visible marks, the modeling and decoration of her face (especially the feathered eyebrows) recalls the lovely ladies made by Dressel, Kister, and Company.  The large expressive hands are also typical of Dressel.

Her feet are tacked to the box lid with little nails, which are cleverly disguised as shoe buckles.

Her base is actually a box, that may have once held some sweet treats or treasured trinket.

Her outfit would be the epitome of fashion in the late 1910s, with the unusual mushroom-shaped hat fitted low over the eyebrows, short jacket with a wide collar, high waist, and a full skirt, such as pictured in this fashion plate from 1917.

She may be a rare fashion doll dressed by Mademoiselle E. Victoria Riera, who created exquisitely costumed dolls in France in the early 1900s.  Riera is first mentioned in the French magazine Femina in 1908 as the winner of a doll dressing contest for three little ladies she garbed in detailed historical costumes.  Her dolls had bisque heads and limbs, which Riera bought from other manufacturers, and wore beautifully tailored hand-sewn costumes representing historical eras, regional folk dress, or contemporary fashion.  Her dolls were posed on velvet bases, often, but not always, with a label carrying Riera's name and the year.  These dolls were luxury items, exhibited at museums and high-end fashionable stores. Riera continued to dress dolls through the 1910s, including taking part in exhibitions to help raise funds for the French war effort.  This 12-inch fashion lady auctioned by Theriault's has an identical bisque head to my belle on a box, the same unusual feet with the nail buckles, and a similar velvet-covered base. Theriault's attributed her to Riera.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

On the Ball

This nubile nude leaning against a big bright beach ball is unmarked, but has the amber painted eyes with sultry gray shadowing typical of bathing beauties and half dolls of the German firm of Fasold and Stauch.  Of excellent china, this belle of the ball is 5.5 inches long. 

A close up of her face, showing the typical Fasold eyes.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Mystery Deepens

Earlier in this blog I posted about a mujer de misterio, a señorita from Spain who at first glance appeared to be a fashion figure from Galluba and Hofmann, but in fact was a replica made of plaster.  She now has a sister, also from Spain.  This lovely lass also has a mohair wig, which in this case appears to be original, arms jointed at the shoulders, and molded off-white combination underwear ending just above knees.  Standing on her base, she is 16 inches tall.

She has all the charming characteristics of a Galluba gal, including the perfect oval face, large intaglio eyes, the long slim neck, and surprisingly wide shoulders.  

Her elegant outfit of velvet and lace appears to be all original and is beautifully made.

Underneath are several petticoats trimmed in fine lace and lace knickers with delightful ribbon garters (one could argue this is superfluous as she has molded underwear underneath, but I am glad that her mysterious maker made this extra effort!).  The right or left foot slightly forward is common to Galluba's fashion ladies, but the dainty little feet with multi-strap pumps are not typical footwear for Galluba ladies, who tend to have footwear with elongated toes so that the tips of their shoes are often visible under the hems of their long Edwardian skirts.  Perhaps a little artistic license by her unknown creator?

Her base, trimmed in lavish red velvet and gold braid, is the top of a round box (the bottom is lost to time).  The only mark is “2270/60” in pencil written inside the lid.  One wonders if the box held sweet treats or perfumed power.  Whatever its contents, this must have been some gargantuan  gorgeous gift!  This lady and her lacy outfit are in wonderful condition considering time and the fragility of the materials.  Clearly someone treasured this beautiful box-lid belle for many, many years. 

Spanish craftsmen for centuries have created religious figures and icons out of wood and plaster.  It appears now that sometime in the early 1900s a Spanish artisan decided to branch out into more modern mannequins to adorn shop windows and gift boxes and used the bisque belles of Galluba as a model.  Perhaps someday a catalogue, advertisement, or business card will come to light to help solve the mystery of these lovely ladies of Spain. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fly Girl

This bathing belle appears ready to flee the fly that has alighted on her thigh.  Of excellent china, the fly-shy flapper is 2.5 inches high and three inches long.  The frisky fly is metal and has clear celluloid wings.  This bather has been attributed to Fasold and Stauch.   

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ooo-La-La, a French Bathing Beauty

As noted before on this blog, I collect antique dolls as well as bathing beauty figurines.  It is always a special serendipity when my two collections overlap.  This 17-inch tall French fashion models an antique doll-size bathing suit from the 1860s or 70s.  Such dolls were the Barbie dolls of their day, and their exquisite and costly wardrobes included every article of accessory or clothing a proper lady would need in her trousseau, including a demure, but fashionable, bathing suit for a visit to the beach.  Her two-piece bathing suit, consisting of a long tunic top and full trousers, is beautifully tailored of canvas with wool ribbon trim.  All the buttons, even on her cuffs, are fully functional.  I added the snood, stockings, and leather slippers--although they are far newer than the suit itself, they are appropriate for the period.  Finding authentic early doll fashions is far from easy, and bathing suits are exceptionally scarce.   

Although sea bathing was long considered to have curative powers, as the Victorian era saw a rise in the middle class and leisure time, trips to the beach became more merry than medicinal.  Fashion magazines printed pictures of the latest in swimwear, balancing modesty and mode.  This illustration is from the July1864 edition of Godey's Lady's Book, a monthly women's magazine published from 1830 to 1878.  Typically, such bathing suits were made from wool, serge, or flannel.    

The doll herself has a bisque swivel head on a matching shoulder plate and a kid body.  She wears her original mohair wig, which perfectly matches her eyebrows.  Although marked only "4" on her shoulder plate, she is attributed to the French manufacturer Masion Jumeau.  Her exaggerated elongated almond-shaped eyes, dubbed "wrap around" by collectors, are typical of early Jumeau fashions.