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, April 27, 2017

Skirting the Issue

This exotic dancer poses prettily on a oriental rug in the center of a onyx ashtray.  However, this nuatch dancer has a naughty secret. . . . 

as her hinged skirt lifts up the in front, unveiling her (literally and figurally).  Of detailed bronze, cold-painted in subtle colors, this harem dancer is 6.25 inches tall.  Two corners of the 7-inch wide ashtray have gilt metal plaques engraved with the names “MORTON” and “KIKI.”  

Her supporting sash covers most of her marking across her lower back, but similar dancing damsels are incised with a stylized urn containing a "B" and “Nam Greb.” The urn mark is of the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann, which produced detailed bronze sculptures from the 1860s until 1936. Along with more innocent subjects, such as the miniature animals, comic images, and Middle Eastern scenes, the foundry produced erotic bronzes, often featuring woman whose beauty could be bared by lifting a piece of drapery or pressing a button or an object, such as an owl or an Egyptian sarcophagus, that opened to expose a nubile nude within.  The erotic subjects are often marked "Nam Greb," the reverse of Bergmann's name (minus one "n"). Upon the death of Bergmann's son, the company's molds and remaining stock were sold in 1954 to Karl Fuhrmann and Company.  Currently, there are high-quality and costly reproductions from Bergmann's molds are being cast in Austria, and there are also cheaper and poorer quality copies of some of the erotic Bergmann models coming out of Europe, China, or India. These latter pieces have poor modeling and blurred details, may be garishly 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 or carelessly copied, still carry the Bergmann or Nam Grab marks.  This vamp in a veil is probably one of the most copied Bergmann erotic bronzes.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ravishing Redhead

As in the real world, true red-headed bathing beauties are uncommon, especially when they are as stunning as this copper-tressed cutie.  Of excellent flawless bisque, this femme with flame-colored locks is 4.5 inches tall and 4 inches wide.  Beautifully modeled from her slender curves to her lithe limbs, she is faintly stamped “Bavaria” in black under her right thigh, a mark typical of the German firm of William Goebel, and is incised under her hips “801 C2.”  

A close up of this gorgeous ginger gal's lovely face with unusual amber-colored eyes.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Stunner by Carl Schneider

For a collector, just when you think you have seen everything, something completely new pops up! At first glance, this big (14.5 inches tall!) beautiful bisque belle appears to be a fashion lady by Galluba and Hofmann. However, her lovely face with its full cheeks and prominent chin is not typical of Galluba and her lower body and legs lack the details often found on a Galluba fashion lady, such as molded ribbed undergarments or high-button shoes.  The base and figure are molded in a single piece, while Galluba ladies were generally molded separately from their bases and subsequently attached with a bit of plaster. 

A closeup of her beautiful face. The mohair wig is original.

However, there is no mystery as to her maker, as she carries the "G" pierced by double arrows of Carl Schneider Erben. In all my years of collecting, I have never before seen such an example.

Although her face, slender arms, and graceful hands are beautifully modeled, below the waist all such delicate details are missing. Unlike Galluba, Schneider was not going to waste time and effort on parts that would be covered by clothing.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hand in Glove

I send to you a pair of gloves.
If you love me, 
Leave out the "G"
And make a pair of loves.
Throughout Western history, gloves have been associated with love. In the age of chivalry, a fair damsel might give her chosen knight a glove as a token of her love and fidelity, which he would proudly display in his belt or wear on his helmet.  Presenting a woman with a pair of fine gloves, especially if they were perfumed, was a sign of courtship and even betrothal.  The preceding poem appeared in Elizabethan times and continued to be quoted in some form in love notes and Valentine cards through the Edwardian era.  Perhaps this lithesome lady with her shy smile has just received the pair of gloves she holds from an ardent admirer.  Incised on the back of her base "406” and “E,” this  5.5 inch tall bisque belle is by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann.  She wears her original brunette mohair wig and at one time would have been garbed in a fashionable Edwardian gown of real silk and lace to cover her molded undergarment.    

Saturday, March 11, 2017

New Article

My latest article, "Her Naughty Hula Hips," appears in the March 2017 edition of Antique Doll Collector magazine.  The article is a followup to my December 2016 article in that publication, "A Whistle and a Shimmy; Clockwork Carnival Dolls of the 1920s," which examined at the clockwork dancing dolls created by companies like Zaiden Toy Works for carnival concessionaires.  The new article contracts hula dolls created by Zaiden and Progressive Toy Company.  The title is from the song, "Keep Your Eye on Her Hands" by Tony Todaro and Liko Johnston, which was sung by Jane Russell in the 1956 movie, "The Revolt of Mamie Stover."

Whenever you're watching a hula girl dance 
You gotta be careful, you're tempting romance. 
Don't keep your eyes on her hips 
Her naughty hula hips,
Keep your eyes on the hands.

Remember she's telling a story to you, 
Her opu is swaying, but don't watch the view. 
Don't concentrate on the swing 
It doesn't mean a thing, 
Keep your eyes on the hands. 

And when she goes around the island 
Swinging hips so tantalizing, 
Just keep your eyes where they belong. 
Because the hula has a feeling 
That will send your senses reeling, 
It makes a weak man strong. 

Your eyes are revealing 
I'm fooling no one, 
No use in concealing 
We're having some fun. 

But if you're too young to date 
Or over ninety-eight,
Keep your eyes on the hands. 
They tell the story, 
Just keep your eyes on the hands.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Humorous Humidor

This humidor is hand painted on each side with a different bathing beauty striking a coy or comic pose.  The 7 inch tall container has a space under the lid for a moist sponge to keep the tobacco from drying out and is marked underneath with "B & Co. France," the mark of  L. Bernardaud and Company in the Limoges region.  It is also signed "L. Lemkuil," no doubt the painter of this porcelain piece.  Although the quality of the decoration is quite good, Lemkuil does not appear to have been a professional employed by Bernardaud, but was most likely a talented amateur who purchased the humidor as a blank.      

Lemkuil clearly copied the bawdy bathers from this series of postcards by French artist Xaiver Sager (1870-1930), one of the number of boudoir artists and illustrators who populated the pages of publications such as La Vie Parisienne, as well as innumerable postcards, with gorgeous gamines and kittenish coquettes.  This baigneuses series dates from the mid to late 1910s.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sara La Baigneuse

This nubile nude is a real swinger. In the Victorian home, every possible inch was decorated, including airspace. Bisque and china figurines were made to hang from oil lamps and chandeliers, fan and shade pulls, hanging baskets, or hooks in front of windows. Most of these figurines were both relatively small and innocent, typically cherubic children sitting on a swing. This big bare beauty is extraordinary not only because of the sensual subject, but her size; at 9 inches high and 4.25 inches wide, she is as large as she is lovely.  Of the finest china and decoration, she is superbly sculpted from her tumbled blonde tresses to her delicate bare feet. Her face is that of a Grecian goddess and her full-figured form is exposed in all its voluptuous pulchritude. 

This luscious lady also may have a literary allusion. She appears to have been inspired by the 1838 painting “Sara La Baigneuse” (Sara the Bather) by French painter Alexandre-Marie Colin (1798-1875), which now hangs in the Musée Rolin in France. In turn, Colin was inspired by Victor Hugo’s 1828 poem, “Zara the Bather,” 

In a swinging hammock lying, 
Lightly flying, 
Zara, lovely indolent, 
O'er a fountain's crystal wave
There to lave
Her young beauty. . . . 

A close up of her delicately painted face. Considering the size and weight of this swinger and her previous perilous life perched high in the air, I suspect that not many of Sara's sisters have survived to the present day!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Seaside Siblings

As I have noted previously on this blog, I collect antique dolls as well as bathing beauties, especially German and French all-bisque dolls.   For me, this tiny twosome is a terrific "two-fer."  Just 2 5/8 inches tall, this brother and sister pair are ready for a day of sea and sand in their molded bathing suits.  Unmarked, they are of excellent German bisque and quality.  These little unjointed dolls are called badekinder (bathing children) in German or, as dubbed by American collectors, frozen Charlottes (the boys are frozen Charlies), a name inspired by the folk ballad of "Fair Charlotte." 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Golden Girl

This bronze bathing beauty flings her arms wide to embrace the seaside sunshine, breathing deeply of fresh ocean air. In her exuberance, she is apparently unaware that the top of her 1920s bathing suit has slipped beneath her breasts. Superbly sculpted, with a golden patina, this lovely lithe lass is 9.75 inches tall, including her polished pink marble base, imbedded with intriguing fossils.

Her base is signed with what appears to be "Remi." Although this statuette is clearly by a skilled sculptor, I could not find any similar name or signature in the four-volume "Bronzes, Sculptors and Founders" by Harold Berman. An Internet search found an artist by the name of "Remi Palmier," but the few examples I found of his bronzes are signed with his full name and, frankly, his work is not of the same fine quality. From the late 1800s through the 1920s there were hundreds of workshops and foundries in Austria, Germany, France, and the United States creating small detailed bronzes and statuettes, the most famous of which is the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann.  Many of these bronzes, like this fabulous flapper, were a bit on the naughty side.  With hundreds of artists working during this period, identifying her specific sculptor may not be possible.  But if anyone has any information, I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pretty in Pink

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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Just Hanging Around

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.