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. Made in Germany, many fairings carry a caption. This fairing features two well-dressed gentlemen apparently preparing to share the buxom blonde beauty lying on the bed behind them. The caption reads, "After you my dear Alfonse." This phrase was made famous by the American comic strip, "Alphonse and Gaston" by Frederick Opper, which featured two garishly dressed and extremely ugly, but extraordinarily polite, Frenchmen. The comic first appeared in 1901; however, neither of the fairing's rakish roués resemble the grotesque Gaston or Alphonse and their elegant clothing is closer to what a Victorian gentleman would have worn in the late 1800s. Although it is possible that the fairing dates from after 1900, I wonder whether it is earlier and that the comic strip's catch phrase actually was inspired by some preceding vaudeville act or music hall skit. The quality of this fairing is quite high for this genre, with detailed modeling and nicely done decoration. Stamped "Made in Germany" in a circle underneath, this funny fairing is 3.5 inches long and 4 inches high.
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.