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, July 21, 2016

Pushing the Envelope

This beautiful bisque half doll by Galluba and Hofmann appears to be shyly turning away from the letter in her outstretched hand.  Is it a missive from the master of her heart?  Is she bashfully offering a love letter to her beau?  Or is it a past-due bill from her hairdresser?  Her elaborate white mohair wig is original.  She is 3.25 inches tall bisque and incised “5694” on back of  her base.   

She is the literal half sister of Ms. #473, who has been featured earlier on this blog.  The mold was slightly modified, so that the left arm on the half doll is bent up to allow her to balance on her base.  The gloves worn by Ms. #473 are painted, not molded, allowing the figure to be offered begloved or bare-armed.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Belle (and Beau) of the Ball

Previous posts have featured delightful double figurines by Galluba and Hofmann displaying two voluptuous belles dancing together.  This capering couple by Galluba is unusual for two reasons.  First, the fine figurines are separate, molded to fit together in a fond embrace, tiny holes in the soles of their feet fitting over supporting rods in the base.  Second, one of the partners appears to be a man, dressed in a detailed molded tuxedo, which has been flocked to give it the feel of fabric.  His lovely lady wears her original mohair wig in the typical Galluba chignon and a delicate dress of golden cream silk. Her tinted stockings match her dress and she has molded light blue pumps.  This diminutive double is just 4 inches from the soles of the man's shoes to the tips of the fingers on his raised hand. There are no visible marks.  The wooden base is not original and this dancing duo may have once had a bisque base or decorated a silk-covered candy box or pincushion.  

Note I said that one of the pair appears to be a man.  Although "he" has an original short mohair wig, his face is as delicate and feminine as that of his pretty partner.  Galluba was capable of producing figurines with more masculine features.  I wonder if Galluba was flirting with a little notoriety here.  In certain circles of society in the early 1900s, it was fashionably scandalous for a woman to dress as a man.

The French author Colette, during this period, displayed her scorn for convention by sometimes dressing in men's suits, at a time when such cross-dressing, outside of the stage, was forbidden by law.

During her early years as a music hall performer and writer, Colette openly engaged in, and wrote about, lesbian relationships.  Marquise Mathilde de Morny, known as Missy, became Colette's lover in 1906, an affair that lasted roughly five years.  Born to an aristocratic family, Missy made no secret of her attraction to women and, following the death of her mother in 1896, began dressing exclusively in men's clothing.  In 1907, Missy performed with Colette at the Moulin Rouge in a pantomime entitled "Rêve d'Égypte" (Dream of Egypt).  Missy, playing an archeologist, unwraps a mummy, revealing an exotically, and scantily, dressed Colette.  The ending, with Missy and Colette exchanging passionate kiss,  caused a riot in the theater.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

All in the Family

Both my parents are now gone and we recently sold their home.  This past week my brothers and I gathered to go through boxes of family pictures that one brother had been storing in his garage.  I found this picture of a lithe and lovely flapper bathing beauty, my maternal grandmother, Sarah, after whom I am named.

Here is Sarah (in the middle) posing with two other bathing belles.  

The photographs were not dated, but I certainly think they predate my mother, who was born in 1932.  Looking at the fabulous fashions flaunted by Sarah and her friends in another photo appearing on the same album page, I am guessing the late 1920s.  Sarah worked as a milliner in New York City, so always had an interest in fashion (and it shows).  She was also an organizer for the United Hatters, Cap, and Millinery Workers International Union.  My mother told me that there was a picture of her when she was just a tiny girl holding a sign reading "Chic Hats is Unfair."  I wish I had found that one as well!

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Each of the long-legged lasses in this unusual set comes with her own wooden chair.  They are molded in sitting positions, and the two ladies on the ends seem somewhat scandalized by the rather unladylike pose of the middle miss!  Each lounging lady is of sharp precolored bisque and is dressed in her original net and ribbon outfit.  Although any marks on the bisque beauties are hidden by their clothing, the bottom of each chair is faintly stamped "Germany." The ladies each measure approximately 3 inches long and 2.25 inches tall.  

There is a raven-haired beauty. . . .

a blushing blonde. . .

and a rather imprudent brunette.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cock of the Walk

This blog has previously pictured naughty novelties playing on the double entendre regarding the affectionate name for a kitty cat and a vulgar term for a woman's genitalia.  But German companies also engaged in such prurient wordplay regarding another term for a rooster and a man's private parts.  And as far as the German manufacturers were concerned, size did matter!  Schafer and Vater produced a series of buxom blondes clad only in their white chemises and black stockings engaged in provocative play with plus-sized poultry.  However, this bisque belle and her feathered friend show that Schafer was not the only company to portray a damsel in dishabille with a cheeky Chantecler.  From an unknown company, this figurine is 4.5 inches long and incised "3803."   

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mujer de Misterio

 This woman of mystery came from Spain.  At first glance, she might appear to be a fashion lady by Galluba and Hofmann, but instead of being of bisque, she is modeled from plaster and stands on a wooden base.  Nearly a foot tall, she is unmarked.

She came bald, but I made her a new mohair wig.  She was jointed at the shoulders with wire, which I switched out for elastic.
A close up of her face.  Considering her age and the fragility of her material, she is in remarkably good condition.

Her lower legs may have once been covered by fabric, as there are bits of material still stuck to her painted stockings.
There is a scrap of paper glued under the wood base, but unfortunately it is not a label, but appears to be part of a Spanish newspaper.  I can make out ". . . and big. There will be on Sunday . . .program. . . marriage. . . in three acts. . . "

Whoever created her was certainly inspired by the fashion ladies by Galluba, as demonstrated by this pair of the company's bisque belles.  The plaster mannequin has the same perfect oval face, long slender neck, oddly broad shoulders, and gracefully gesturing slim arms.  The right or left foot slightly forward is common to Galluba's fashion ladies, and her strapless undergarment, stockings, and heeled pumps also seem to have been copied from a Galluba gal.  For centuries, Spanish craftsmen have created religious figures and icons out of wood and plaster and I wonder if some artisan in the early 1900s, upon seeing a costly and fragile fashion lady by Galluba, decided to expand his current line of santos to include more modern mannequins for shop windows and counter displays. The pretty plaster senorita's jointed arms would have made her easier to dress and pose.       

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fräulein Ondine

Previously this blog featured Miss Ondine, a mechanical "poupee nageuse" (swimming doll) patented in 1878 by Elie Martin.  That bathing belle has a French fashion head, so she could be dubbed Mademoiselle Ondine.  In that post, I noted that Miss Ondine is most commonly found (not that she is common!) with head by the German firm of Simon and Halbig. Here is the version with the Simon and Halbig head, mold #1079. 

Her body is identical to her French (and probably earlier) swimming sister.  She wears her original silk swimsuit, once blue, but now faded to ecru.  I have seen other models in the same bathing attire, in rose, blue, or white.

She winds underneath with a key, moving her arms and legs in a rather frantic and frog-like breaststroke.   Her cork body was advertised as waterproof and capable of floating in water.

Here Mademoiselle Ondine demonstrates her swimming skills.  I have her balanced on a globular glass candleholder, allowing her key to turn freely.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Yet More Variations on a Theme

Recently on this blog I posted a charming china bathing beauty with her bisque sister, both by Galluba and Hofmann.  Here is one more example showing how Galluba produced the same model in china and bisque.  The 4-inch long china bathing belle is in full molded beach regalia, while the bisque bather is dressed in a bathing suit of silk net and ribbon.  The china sister has molded brown curls peeking out from under her bathing cap, while the bisque sibling has a mohair wig.  Although the china models would have certainly been less expensive to produce, as there was no need to dress and wig them, they are less common than the bisque versions.  Although pretty and appealing, perhaps they were just not as popular with the public.    

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lost in the Crowd

I am one of the eight collectors featured in the April 2016 edition of "Austin Monthly." Note how I carefully arranged the photo shoot (this pose was my idea) to reduce being in the picture as much as possible. I am far more photophobic rather than photogenic, but the magazine insisted that each collector had to be pictured with his or her collection. My main bathing beauty cabinet opens from both sides (it originally was a wet bar and I removed the sink and had a custom cabinet built in), so I could stand in the back and just peek over my ladies (who make a much prettier picture!), while the photographer snapped the photo from the front.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

More Variations on a Theme

This winsome miss in molded bathing togs is unmarked, but she is an unusual china bathing beauty by Galluba and Hofmann.  Although most of Galluba's belles are bisque, the company also produced charmers in china.  The company's china bathers appear to have come clad in molded bathing suits.  Although just as well modeled and decorated as the bisque versions, and probably less expensive to manufacture, as there was no need for a mohair wig and swimsuit of lace and ribbon, these china charmers are far less common than their bisque sisters.  Perhaps they were just not as popular with a public who may have been more attracted by the matte natural skin tones of bisque, the appealing outfits of real fabric, and the soft tresses of mohair.  She is 2.5 inches high and 2 inches long.

Here is the same model in bisque, with her original mohair wig, lounging about on an extra-large lobster.  This bisque bather is marked on her back “407 C.e.,”  typical of Galluba's 400 number series for its bathing belles.  Her shellfish steed is of china and is stamped underneath with the shield mark of Galluba, as well as incised under the tail “9937.”  The lady is 2.75 inches tall and 2 inches long and the leviathan lobster is 6.5 inches long.  There is a round hole in the upper portion of the lobster’s tail and his bareback rider (in more ways than one) fits into the hole with a wooden dowel.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Getting Wiggy

My last posting featured a trio of pretty petite pincushion dolls by Galluba and Hoffman with unusual molded tresses.  They appear here again, each posing with her wigged counterpart.  Only 1.5 inches tall, this brunette beauty is incised on the back of her base with a four digit number beginning with "96."  She has lower, as well as upper, lid lines, typical of Galluba. 

This miniature maiden has retained her original mohair wig, and she also has lower lid lines.  Again, just 1.5 inches tall, she is incised "9623" on the back of her base.

A tad larger, at 1.75 inches tall, this dark-haired damsel also still wears her original wig.  She carries a blurred incised number that appears to begin with "96."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Doing by Halves

Generally, to say someone is doing things by halves means that person does things incompletely or without enthusiasm.  However, when Galluba and Hofmann did things by halves, they created something wholly beautiful.  This trio of petite pincushion dolls demonstrate the delicate detail Galluba lavished on even its littlest ladies.  

Although just 1.5 inches high, her arms were molded separately and are completely free from her body.  Her light brown molded hair is bound with a blue bow on each side, and her tiny face, with its large dark eyes and lush lips, is beautifully painted. She is stamped “Germany” in red underneath.

Another belle sporting a blue bow in her brown hair, this miniature miss is also just 1.5 inches tall.  Again, the arms were molded separately.  In addition to being stamped “Germany” in red underneath, she is incised with a faint number that appears to be “9906” on  the back of her base. 

The tallest of the three, she is a towering 1.75 inches tall, not including her original pincushion.   Perhaps because of her larger size, her face is slightly more detailed, with lower lid lines and nose dots.  She also wears blue bows in her light brown hair, which is twisted into a bun, and her arms were molded separately.  There are no visible marks.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Belles of the Ball, Part 3

These china charmers have been pictured previously on this blog, but they represent yet another version of the beauteous belles of the ball by Galluba and Hofmann.

Clearly, this pretty pair was inspired by this postcard by the Spanish artist, Luiz Usabal Y Hernandez, In Galluba's interpretation, the lithe lasses look a bit more ladylike than lascivious, but otherwise Galluba carefully copied everything from the pose to the gowns.  

Here all three of Gallubas belles take a turn around the ballroom, showing how one postcard inspired a trio of delectable double damsels.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Belles of the Ball, Part 2

These belles of the ball, at 5.25 inches tall, are the littler sisters of the Galluba and Hofmann dancing damsels from my previous post.  Instead of wigs, they flaunt a fashionable molded hat and a bandeau and have molded tresses.  They may also be younger sisters, as their figures have been considerably slimmed down, perhaps reflecting the shift throughout the 1910s to a more slender silhouette with less emphasis on the bust and hips.  Although the pose is similar to that of the preceding pair, there are some slight changes.  The shorter dancer now holds a white molded object (perhaps her dance card?) in the hand behind her back and her taller partner's lower right arm and hand are molded to the other's back.    The pedestal has been exchanged for a base molded to resemble a parquet floor.  The base is  incised “Germany” and “8918.”

This picture not only shows how the legs have been elongated and the curves carved down, but also why these cavorting cuties needed to be dressed.  The lavender tinting representing their stockings only climbs half way up their calves, and the bisque was left white from the tops of the stockings to the waist.  Yet, dressing is difficult because of the pose and the fact that the supporting pedestal is molded to their hips.  Although far from a competent seamstress, I solved the problem by stitching together pieces of green and pink silk and gathering the strip around both their waists to create the illusion of separate skirts.  I would love to see a pair in their original outfits, as not only am I curious how Galluba addressed the dressing dilemma, but also because undoubtedly they would be dressed with the fine fabrics and detailed tailoring Galluba lavished on its fashion ladies.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Belles of the Ball

…I enjoy watching the girls dancing together, they waltz well . . . . I see only two graceful bodies united, sculpted beneath thin dresses by the wind of the waltz. . . .They waltz lewdly, sensuously, with that delicious inclination of a tall sail of a yacht. . . . I really find it prettier than any ballet. 

The Sémiramis Bar, 1909, Colette 

During Victorian and Edwardian times, it was acceptable for women to dance together, typically at tea dances where there were not enough male partners.  In the early 1900s, restaurants, night clubs, and other places of evening entertainment would hire professional dancers to entertain the patrons, often partnering two pretty women in daring dresses to dance among the tables in the latest, and most shocking, dances of the day.  These bare belles of the ball are by Galluba and Hofmann and are part of the company's highly sought after series of double damsels.  Although these lovely lasses retain the remains of their original mohair wigs, originally this pulchritudinous pair were no doubt draped in the silks and laces of the finest Edwardian fashions.  Of excellent bisque and workmanship, this figurine is 8 inches high and incised underneath "314."

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Lady of the Lamp

This beautiful belle in a bell-shaped skirt is a very unusual lamp by the German company of Galluba and Hofmann. Clearly more she was meant to be more a boudoir light than reading lamp, even though the lovely lady herself holds a book! The lamp is 12 inches tall and of excellent china.


The dress fits over a round metal ring, making it a real hoop skirt

Although the piece is not marked, the elegant miss balanced above her billowing skirt is identical to a half doll model attributed to Galluba.

And those shapely legs, gracefully standing with one slender foot forward, and ruffled undergarments are familiar to any collector of Galluba's fine fashion ladies.  The unusual tan base is unique to Galluba's gorgeous girls.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Frosty Flappers

What does a bathing beauty wear during the winter?  Well, if she lives here in Austin, Texas, where the weather has been in the 80s, she is probably still in her swimsuit.  However, these frosty little flappers, who live in some wintry clime that actually sees snow, have traded swimming for sledding.  Although bundled up against the cold, their winter garments do little to hide their lithe bodies and subtle curves.  All are of good china and incised "Germany."  The two tobogganing in tandem are 3 inches high and 3.25 inches long and also are incised "K92," while the single sledder is incised "K89," and the pretty miss pulling her sled is incised "K91."  Interestingly, someone has tried to cover the "Germany" on all three pieces with enamel paint, perhaps as a result of anti-German sentiment during WWII.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Half Doll, but Wholly Beautiful

Although a sizable 5.5 inches tall, this lovely lass in deep reverie is clearly the little sister of the super-sized Galluba and Hofmann half doll pictured previously on this blog.  She is incised on back of her waist “9552.” 

Like her larger and literal half sister, this demure damsel's face is painted in the typical Galluba style, but she lacks the intaglio pupils commonly found on Galluba's gorgeous gals.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

From Riches to Rags

This diminutive and demure damsel seems to have fallen on hard times.  Although she still flaunts her fur stole, her form-fitting silk dress is now faded and in tatters.  The remains serve to how her maker, Galluba and Hoffman, carefully tailored these detailed dresses on its bisque fashion ladies.  The thin silk is lined in mesh and three tiny bead "buttons" decorate the hem of her dress just above her right foot.  Underneath the remains of her once-sumptuous Edwardian outfit, she probably wears  molded undergarments like those seen on her big sister, who appeared earlier on this blog.  Her wig is an old replacement, and originally she wore had a sleek mohair chignon, most likely accessorized with a fashionable and fetching hat.