On this blog, I have repeatedly warned collectors about reproduction bathing beauties and all-bisque dolls made by the Belgium company, Mundial (aka Keralouve) that have flooded antiques and flea markets and on-line auction and sales venues, where they are often misrepresented as old. Although the quality of these items is often far below that of the antique originals, it is good enough to fool many collectors and dealers, especially when the items are aged with applied dirt and rust spots. I have just discovered that Dollmasters, a spin-off of Theriault's Auctions, which specialized in artist and reproduction dolls, old store stock, and reproduction doll clothes, has become Florence and George and the spring catalogue is offering a variety of Mundial bathing beauties (see pages 10, 11, and 37; there is also a copy of a Schafer and Vater figurine on the back cover). The catalogue states that "Cast from the original designs, you'll find it hard to distinguish from the rare and sought originals - except that ours are stamped "f&g" on the underside." While it is good that these, unlike the rest of Mundial products, will be marked to indicate that they are reproductions, the problem with stamped marks, as collectors and dealers learned from the re-issues made by the now defunct German Doll Company, is that they can be removed by unscrupulous sellers.
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.