Although only 2.25 inches tall, this china full-figure bathing beauty pincushion doll displays amazing detail, from her delicately painted features to the fact that her graceful arms and shapely legs are free from her body. There are no marks, but William Goebel did use this type of unusual domed base for some of its pincushion ladies.
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, January 5, 2017
This very unusual mermaid by William Goebel is made to adorn the edge of an aquarium. Of excellent bisque, this sultry sea siren is 4.5 inches long.
Her folded arms are angled away from her body, forming a little ledge to fit over the lip of a fish tank. This perch is rather perilous, as a little bump can easily dislodge her, sending this fragile finned femme crashing to the floor. I suspect not too many of these nubile naiads survived.
She is stamped “Bavaria” in black on her left hip, a mark often used by Goebel.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
As delicate as her dress, this lovely little lady layered in porcelain lace is by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann. Although a mere 3.5 inches long, the facial features of this bisque belle are as detailed as those on her larger sisters, as is her original mohair wig. To create her ethereal finery, real lace was dipped in porcelain slip and draped over the figurine during the greenware stage. When fired, the lace burned away, leaving only the thin porcelain shell. Many dealers and collectors refer to this as Dresden lace, after the porcelain-making area of Germany where the many companies used this technique, although porcelain factories throughout Germany produced such "spitzenfiguren." The airy bathing suit or sundress is beautifully done, using two types of lace; a fine net makes up the majority of the dress and details such as shoulder straps and a bow at the waist, while an eyelet material was used to create an underskirt, as well as to trim the bodice. Sadly, as is so typical of this fragile porcelain lace, there is some damage to the front of her skirt, but it is amazing that so much of her frail outfit is still intact after a century!
Here she poses with two more dainty diminutive damsels from this scarce series.
Friday, December 9, 2016
My article, "A Whistle and a Shimmy; Clockwork Carnival Dolls of the 1920s" is in the December 2016 issue of "Antique Doll Collector." The article looks at the clockwork cuties companies like Zaiden Toy Works created for carnival concessionaires. Below are some of the dolls included in my article. This is "Bimbo," advertised by Zaiden in 1922 as a “wonderful creation” who “executes the belly roll.”
Another Zaiden maiden is "Salvation Nell," a “Salvation Army girl shaking her tambourine and collecting funds. A Goddess of Mercy.”
This March 8, 1922, advertisement by Zaiden features seven dolls, which it declares are only part of the company’s “Sixteen new mechanical numbers.” How many more of these shimmying and shaking dancing dolls are still out there after over 80 years, waiting to be discovered?
Thursday, December 8, 2016
In this bronze figurine, a shy bathing belle peeks out of her beach cabana, demurely clutching the curtains closed so that all we see is her sweetly-smiling face and dainty slippered feet. But press down on the button atop her tent. . . .
and you are treated to a whole other side of her personality. Pulling out the button on the left side of the changing hut restores her modesty by flipping the bare beauty back to her original position.
This erotic mechanical bronze is 6.25 inches tall. The lower back base of cabana incised with stylized urn contains a "B" and “Nam Greb Austria.” The "B" in the urn is the mark of the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann, which produced detailed bronze sculptures from the 1860s until 1936. Among the miniature animals, comic subjects, and Middle Eastern scenes, the foundry produced erotic bronzes, typically featuring a nude woman or a pair of naked lovers secreted within a seemingly innocuous subject, only to be revealed by a push of a button or lifting a up a piece of metal drapery. Often the erotic subjects are marked "Nam Greb," the reverse of Bergmann's name (less one "n"). Bergmann's son subsequently reopened the foundry, but the molds and remaining stock were sold at his death in 1954 to Karl Fuhrmann and Company. Currently, there are high-quality (and expensive) reproductions from Bergmann's molds, typically the miniature cold-painted animals, being cast in Austria, but as far as I can tell, not of the more complicated mechanical bronzes. There are also cheaper and poorer quality copies of some of the erotic Bergmann models coming out of Europe, China, or India. These pieces have poor modeling and blurred details, may be garishly gold-painted or patinated, and the female figurines' figures often have been slimmed down (but their breasts enlarged) to cater to modern tastes. Many of these bronzes, whether recast from an original mold of carelessly copied, carry the Bergmann or Nam Grab marks.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
This sleepy sultana, luxuriating a sensual stretch, represents how many Americans will no doubt feel after stuffing themselves with turkey and stuffing (although, admittedly most Americans would probably not look quite as fetching in a barely-there jeweled bra and sheer skirt). By the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann, she is a variation of a mold used by the company for a bathing beauty. Decorated in creams and browns to resemble an ivory carving, this undulating odalisque is 8 inches long. Of excellent bisque, this luscious lady is incised underneath “9724.”
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Thursday, November 10, 2016
This fabulous 11 inch tall bisque fashion lady by Galluba and Hofmann has managed to retain both her elaborate mohair wig and her intricate Edwardian gown of silk and lace for over a century. The light brown mohair wig is twisted into a braided bun, adorned with pearls and plumes. Her gown, although a bit yellowed and tattered, shows the delicate details that Galluba lavished on its fashion ladies, from the lined lace bodice to the tiny bead "buttons." Her graceful arms have been left white to long represent gloves and she has matching molded white high-bottom boots. Underneath she no doubt wears the molded combination undergarments typical of Galluba. There are no visible marks.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"
The Owl and the Pussy Cat, Edward Lear
With remarks by a certain presidential candidate regarding his propensity for grabbing pussies making headlines, I thought this week I would post this fine figurine of woman and her pretty pussy that any collector would like to grab. By the German firm of Dressel, Kister, and Company, this nubile nude and her feline friend are of the finest china and decoration. Marked underneath her left foot with crowned “L” in gray and freehand “2,” this curvaceous cutie and her cuddly kitty are 4 inches long and 3.5 inches. The "L" mark replaced the bishop's crozier mark around 1900, under the proprietorship of Rudolph Lenck, and later his widow, Lina, who sold the factory in 1919.
Friday, October 14, 2016
These four flirtatious femmes are another series of damsels in dishabille by the German firm of Schafer and Vater. In addition to the black stockings so favored by Schafer, these lovely lasses each have a blue flower adorning long flowing blonde tresses that fall to their corseted waists, camisoles that insist on slipping off softly rounded shoulders, white bloomers, and orange ankle boots. They are all of excellent sharp bisque.
The lady lounging with a book is 4.5 inches long and marked with a freehand “2.” under her hips. Her less literary sister, who poses provocatively with a oversized fan, is 4 inches long and marked with a freehand "85" underneath.
The belle buttoning her boot is 2.75 inches long and marked with a freehand "37" underneath. Her friend flaunting a folded fan is 3 inches high and is unmarked.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Two of this trio of big piggies with underdressed riders have appeared earlier on this blog, but the rider on the right, holding a champagne flute in her hand, has now joined the previous pair of porkers. She is 4 inches long and incised underneath with what appears to be “6819.”
Although all the pig passengers posture in different poses, the pigs all are the same model. In Germany, the pig is a sign of good luck and prosperity. A person who is lucky will say "Ich habe schwein gehabt" (I have had pig). It is traditional to give gifts of peppermint or marzipan pigs known as glücksschweinchen (good luck pigs) at Christmas and New Years. Considering the bisque belles' state of dishabille and provocative poses, this passel of porkers might better be deemed as "get lucky" pigs. Here an old German New Year postcard features the same theme of a hussy riding high on her hog.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
This well dressed damsel dates from the mid-1850s to the late 1860s, when the fashion for crinoline or hoop skirts swept far and wide (and I do mean wide!) through the fashion world. The creation of the crinoline cage allowed wide bell-shaped swinging skirts, some as much as six feet in diameter.
The fashion for hoop skirts was often the target of social satire and even risqué humor. This china charmer shows a whole other side, displaying a damsel in dishabille buried beneath the wide rings of wire and whalebone and the many yards of fabric and flounces.
Just 3.25 inches tall, this comic china figurine is known as a fairing, because these small inexpensive porcelain pieces often were given as prizes or sold as souvenirs at fairs from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.
A similar spoof from a 1856 cartoon that appeared in "Punch," a British humor and political satire magazine.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
This antique oil painting on panel of a beautiful windblown bathing belle venturing out among the swelling waves has been featured previously on this blog. It was clearly painted by a skilled artist and the style made me wonder if it was intended as an illustration for a magazine.
The painting was signed only with an odd monogram looking like a "W" interposed over a paw print or flower petals. A friend had suggested that the artist might have been Henry Sumner Watson (1868-1933), who also used the name Hy S. Watson, and sometimes used a monogram of a "W" in a circle. However, although the time period was right and there were some similarities between Watson's works and this one, all of the paintings and sketches I have found by Watson are signed with his name, not his monogram.
I finally found time to visit the extensive collection at the University of Texas Fine Arts Library, and spent an afternoon researching the reference books on artists' names and signatures. And I think I have another possible painter for this pretty picture, Walter Whitehead (1874-1936). Whitehead was an illustrator active during the 1910s, when my picture would have been painted, and he often signed his works with a monogram of a "W" against a dark background. Below is his "Encore," painted in 1908 as an advertisement for Cream of Wheat. Note his monogram in the lower right corner. To me there seems to be a similarity in the skilled impressionist looseness of the brushstrokes, was well as the treatment of the shading of whites and the use of deep strong reds to accent the figure.
As an illustrator, Whitehead used a variety of styles and his work often appeared in posters, including patriotic works for WWl. This more peaceful subject, a print from 1915, is signed with his monogram in the lower left corner.
Another print, "Old Miss Hopkins," by Whitehead from 1911 with his monogram in the lower left corner.
This is all speculation, as there are only a limited number of Whitehead's works pictured on the Internet for comparison, most of which are his WWI posters. Also, the monogram on the identified Whitehead works is tighter and more concise than the monogram on my painting and, at least in the three examples I found, always accompanied by a date. Whitehead was a prolific illustrator, with most of his works appearing in magazines and advertisements. Whether he is the painter of my bathing beauty could only be definitively answered by a museum curator or an art appraiser familiar with Whitehead's works, but I certainly think he is a possible candidate!
Monday, August 29, 2016
My article on double bathing beauties by Galluba and Hofmann, entitled "Twice as Nice, Galluba and Hofmann Double Bathing Beauties," is in the September 2016 edition of Antique Doll Collector magazine. Here's a photograph of one scarce double in three different sizes. The largest is 5 inches tall and the smallest is 3.5 inches. Although all three of these terrific twosomes appear in the article, this particular photograph does not.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
This fabulous fun funky flapper lamp features a chalkware bathing beauty sheltering herself from the sun with an oversized parasol that serves as the lamp's shade. The shade still retains most of its fancy fringe of glass beads, probably made in Czechoslovakia.
The old wire runs up through her body, making rewiring to modern safety standards difficult. Fortunately, I bought her because she is a beautiful bathing belle, not because I needed more lighting.
The flirtatious flapper herself is 16 inches high. She closely resembles these plaster poupees (from the fantastic collection of Nannette Rod) modeled after the naughty, but nice, illustrations by French boudoir artist Maurice Milliere.
Although she has suffered a few dings and touch-ups over the decades, overall this lovely lady lamp is in extraordinary condition for her age, considering the fragility of her materials. Such lamps were most likely produced as prizes for carnivals and fairs. This gambling push card offered "the lucky winner" an almost identical lamp.
The picture on the push card shows that the lamp was originally bedecked with two ribbon bows, one covering the place where the stem of the lamp attached to the figure's hand and the other just below the socket. I tried to recreate the bows using fine silk ribbon.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
This luscious lady playing with a cute kitten is by my favorite maker, A. W. Fr. Kister. She is from a series of languid beauties cast in creamy white bisque, carefully highlighted with subtle washes of pale golden-yellow, giving the impression of a sculpture carved in fine marble. In addition to the exquisite anatomically-proportioned modeling, Kister also was a master of capturing movement and mood. You can almost hear the woman cooing softly to the kitten, who mews back to its mistress, see the movement of her soft tresses as they tumble over the pillow, sense the shift of her supple curves as she extends her slim arms upward. . . .
Of the finest bisque, this fine femme and her feline friend are 7.25 inches long. The piece is incised under pillow “11210” over “4,” matching the model number from this page of an old company catalogue.
This pretty maid and her frisky spaniel, featured previously on this blog are also by Kister and appear on the same catalogue page. Perhaps Kister sensed that the world is generally divided between cat people and dog people and designed a figurine to appeal to each market.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
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
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
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!