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, 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.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Walter Whitehead, Are You My Daddy?

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

New Article

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

Fringe Benefits

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

Cats and Dogs

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

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."