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, October 5, 2017

The Mystery Deepens

Earlier in this blog I posted about a mujer de misterio, a señorita from Spain who at first glance appeared to be a fashion figure from Galluba and Hofmann, but in fact was a replica made of plaster.  She now has a sister, also from Spain.  This lovely lass also has a mohair wig, which in this case appears to be original, arms jointed at the shoulders, and molded off-white combination underwear ending just above knees.  Standing on her base, she is 16 inches tall.


She has all the charming characteristics of a Galluba gal, including the perfect oval face, large intaglio eyes, the long slim neck, and surprisingly wide shoulders.  


Her elegant outfit of velvet and lace appears to be all original and is beautifully made.


Underneath are several petticoats trimmed in fine lace and lace knickers with delightful ribbon garters (one could argue this is superfluous as she has molded underwear underneath, but I am glad that her mysterious maker made this extra effort!).  The right or left foot slightly forward is common to Galluba's fashion ladies, but the dainty little feet with multi-strap pumps are not typical footwear for Galluba ladies, who tend to have footwear with elongated toes so that the tips of their shoes are often visible under the hems of their long Edwardian skirts.  Perhaps a little artistic license by her unknown creator?


Her base, trimmed in lavish red velvet and gold braid, is the top of a round box (the bottom is lost to time).  The only mark is “2270/60” in pencil written inside the lid.  One wonders if the box held sweet treats or perfumed power.  Whatever its contents, this must have been some gargantuan  gorgeous gift!  This lady and her lacy outfit are in wonderful condition considering time and the fragility of the materials.  Clearly someone treasured this beautiful box-lid belle for many, many years. 


Spanish craftsmen for centuries have created religious figures and icons out of wood and plaster.  It appears now that sometime in the early 1900s a Spanish artisan decided to branch out into more modern mannequins to adorn shop windows and gift boxes and used the bisque belles of Galluba as a model.  Perhaps someday a catalogue, advertisement, or business card will come to light to help solve the mystery of these lovely ladies of Spain. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fly Girl

This bathing belle appears ready to flee the fly that has alighted on her thigh.  Of excellent china, the fly-shy flapper is 2.5 inches high and three inches long.  The frisky fly is metal and has clear celluloid wings.  This bather has been attributed to Fasold and Stauch.   


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ooo-La-La, a French Bathing Beauty

As noted before on this blog, I collect antique dolls as well as bathing beauty figurines.  It is always a special serendipity when my two collections overlap.  This 17-inch tall French fashion models an antique doll-size bathing suit from the 1860s or 70s.  Such dolls were the Barbie dolls of their day, and their exquisite and costly wardrobes included every article of accessory or clothing a proper lady would need in her trousseau, including a demure, but fashionable, bathing suit for a visit to the beach.  Her two-piece bathing suit, consisting of a long tunic top and full trousers, is beautifully tailored of canvas with wool ribbon trim.  All the buttons, even on her cuffs, are fully functional.  I added the snood, stockings, and leather slippers--although they are far newer than the suit itself, they are appropriate for the period.  Finding authentic early doll fashions is far from easy, and bathing suits are exceptionally scarce.   


Although sea bathing was long considered to have curative powers, as the Victorian era saw a rise in the middle class and leisure time, trips to the beach became more merry than medicinal.  Fashion magazines printed pictures of the latest in swimwear, balancing modesty and mode.  This illustration is from the July1864 edition of Godey's Lady's Book, a monthly women's magazine published from 1830 to 1878.  Typically, such bathing suits were made from wool, serge, or flannel.    


The doll herself has a bisque swivel head on a matching shoulder plate and a kid body.  She wears her original mohair wig, which perfectly matches her eyebrows.  Although marked only "4" on her shoulder plate, she is attributed to the French manufacturer Masion Jumeau.  Her exaggerated elongated almond-shaped eyes, dubbed "wrap around" by collectors, are typical of early Jumeau fashions.



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Paper Doll

I'm gonna buy a Paper Doll that I can call my own
A doll that other fellows cannot steal
And then the flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes
Will have to flirt with dollies that are real

Johnny S. Black, 1915, as recorded by the Mills Brothers in 1942.

This 7.5 inch tall bathing beauty is made entirely out of crepe paper on wire armature. I know nothing about her other than she is definitely old, weird, and wonderful.  Her blue Gibson girl type bathing suit is amazingly detailed, complete with nautical collar, short puffed sleeves, knee-length skirt over longer bloomers, all edged with thin strips of white trim.  Brown crepe paper curls peek out from the front of her blue mob cap adorned with a red bow, and in the back, tucked under her cap, is a chignon of twisted paper.  Her face has a molded nose and each finger is separately wired. She poses provocatively on a wooden dome base.  With coquettish side-glancing eyes, she appears to be looking down the beach for some of those flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes to come and steal her. 


Her age is a bit of a mystery.  Dennison Manufacturing Company, a paper supply and manufacturing company, in the 1890s began to offer sets of paper dolls with either ready-made dresses of colorful crepe paper or with sheets of crepe paper a child could use to create her own dolly fashions.  Throughout the 1900s, Dennison helpfully offered booklets showing how its crepe paper products could be used to create festive decorations and costumes for any occasion.  It even offered instructions for making crepe paper dolls on armature bodies of wire or pipe cleaners, and, although these creations are charming, they are far less complex in construction than this tissue tootsie.  Below is a cover of a 1929 Dennison instruction booklet for making novelty dolls, showing the simpler doll design. 


The height of Dennison's DIY popularity appears to be in the 1920s through the 1940s.  During this same period, wire armature crepe paper dolls with painted crepe paper faces or heads of wax, composition, or bisque were popular as holiday or wedding decorations and center-pieces; some are clearly homemade, but others were produced commercially in Germany, the United States, and Japan.  This crepe paper bathing belle, with all her delicate details, could have been a commercial product, but may also be the creation of an extremely skill home hobbyist, and she most likely dates from this period.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dog Days

In Austin, we are now into the dog days of summer, those long days of simmering searing heat. The term comes from the early Greeks, who noted that beginning in late July Sirius, the dog star (because this bright star was the "nose" of the constellation Canis Major) appeared to rise before the sun, heralding the hottest season of the year.  However, summer heat has not slowed down this pair of  playful pups, each engaged in tugging off one of the stockings of his mirthful mistress.  These figurines are fairings, small inexpensive bisque or china pieces often 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; here each fairing features the motto "Lucky Dog."  There is a bit of a double entendre here, as "dog" could also be slang for a chap or chum.  And indeed any man allowed the privilege of stripping a stocking from such a lovely leg would consider himself a lucky dog indeed!


Of good china, and nicely decorated and detailed for this type of inexpensive novelty, this coquette and her canine companion is 4 inches long and 5 inches high.  It is marked only with a freehand black “63” inside the base.


This bisque version is 4 inches tall and is stamped "Made in Germany" in black underneath.  Of good bisque, the painting is bright and gaudy with gilt, but somewhat slapdash and hasty, typical for many fairings.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Snake Charmer

 He's a cold-hearted snake 
Look into his eyes 
Oh oh oh 
He's been tellin' lies 
He's a lover boy at play 
He don't play by the rules 
Oh oh oh 
Girl don't play the fool--no
Paula Abdul and Elliot Wolfe, 1989

This slinky serpent is either charming, or is being charmed by, the lithe and lovely lady curled up on his coils.  A very unusual creation by Galluba and Hofmann, this 4.25 inch tall  and 4.5 inch wide china figurine is stamped underneath in green with the company's intertwined “G” and “H” inside a crowned shield and incised “40.”  The encircling snake forms a shallow dish, perhaps for holding powder or trinkets (or maybe an apple?).


As they stare into each other's eyes, one wonders who is hypnotizing whom.


A back view of the this lissome lass and her elongated lover.




Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Little More Than a Glimpse. . . .



In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

                                              Cole Porter, 1934

In the days of long skirts and multiple petticoats, the image of a shapely female leg with a well-turned ankle often appeared in naughty novelties, such as these lovely lower limbs.


This risqué bisque is a naughty nipper, a novelty bottle that once held a "nip" of alcohol and was often given away by saloons, liquor stores, or at carnivals as gifts or prizes.  The German company Schafer and Vater is know for its comic or bawdy bottles.  Although marked only with a blurred digit, this 6.5 inch tall bottle resembles many of this company's products, especially its underdressed lasses showing off the their lithe legs in molded stockings.


This 5.75 inch tall leg is a bit of a mystery.  Of bisque, it is hollow and open at the top, as well as at the heel, so it could not have served as a bottle.  It is also clad in a stocking of real fabric and the shoe is covered in silk, further suggesting that this limb was not meant to hold liquid.  It cannot stand by itself, so I added the base, with a rod that fits up into the molded hole in the heel.  Perhaps it was meant to be a comic candy container and once had a bag of small sweet treats.  Or, with a base,  maybe it was a counter display to show off a brand of stocking?



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

2017 Doll Show

My page for the Austin Doll Collectors Society's upcoming October 14, 2017, doll show has been updated (including the show's new location and downloadable dealer contracts).  Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dressed from Head to Toe . . . .

but with nothing in-between, this long-legged lass is from the German firm of Fasold and Stauch.  Of excellent china and 9 inches tall, she sweetly smiles with confidence, knowing that the right accessories are all you need to make a fashion statement.  Perhaps at one point she wore a dress of real fabric and lace, but with such a stunning hat (and figure!), who needs clothes?




Although marked only with a freehand “11” in black under her base, this flirtatious fashionista flashes the typical elongated amber eyes with grey shading attributed to Fasold.


Her torso fits down onto slots at the tops of the legs and is held in place with plaster. This allowed Fasold to use the same lithe limbs for a variety of figurines, without having to create an entirely new mold. For example, this be-gloved lovely, part of an auction by Theriault's, has been found on the same shapely legs.


Or a powder dish could be added, to hold an elegant half doll powder puff, as shown by this example, also from the same Theriault's auction.




Friday, June 16, 2017

A Dancing Shape, an Image Gay. . .


She was a phantom of delight 
When first she gleam’d upon my sight; 
A lovely apparition, sent 
To be a moment’s ornament; 
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair; 
Like Twilight’s, too, her dusky hair; 
But all things else about her drawn 
From May-time and the cheerful dawn; 
A dancing shape, an image gay, 
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
  
Any collector would be haunted, startled, and waylaid by this most beauteous bisque belle.  Although her original form-fitting silk dress covers any marks (while caressing every supple curve of her graceful swaying figure), this  6.75 inch tall lovely lady (not including her wood base) is no doubt by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann.  She is clearly related to another waltzing woman pictured earlier on this blog, and they are gowned in clinging Edwardian gowns of the same color of silk.  One wonders if she too once had a tuxedoed beau.  There are holes in the soles of her molded white pumps for supporting rods.  The wood base is a replacement and she may have once had a base of bisque or decorated an elaborate candy box or pincushion.


A close up of her exquisite features.  She wears her original mohair wig.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

Plaster, but No Saint

This seductive sultana is of chalkware or plaster.  During the early 1900s, there was a fad for pretty plaster ladies, often dressed in real materials, even if it was just a filmy lace chemise.  Perhaps the best known of these chalkware coquettes are the charming plaster poupees designed by the famed French Boudoir artist Maurice Millier.  I do not know who made this ravishing rani, but she is clad in her original exotic, and somewhat exiguous, outfit.  In surprisingly good shape considering the fragility of her materials, she is 11.5 inches tall and unmarked.  The quality of both the figurine and her costume are quite high for this type of novelty statuette.  Unfortunately, her maker is a mystery.  



She reflects the West's continuing fascination with Orientalism, imaginative and fanciful depictions of a mysterious, seductive, and decadent Middle East.  Her costume appears to have been inspired by the elaborate and lavish costumes created by Léon Bakst for the Ballet Russe's 1910 "Scheherazade." 



In fact, her outfit certainly resembles (sans a couple of thousand dangling pearls) the costume worn by dancer Vera Fokina, who portrayed the unfaithful Zobéide, the favorite wife of Sultan Shahriyar, even to the openings down the front of the legs, the puffy peplum at the hips, and the contrasting bodice.  




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May,


Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)


I took this picture for another project, but I liked it so much I decided to include it on my blog.  Both bisque bathing beauties are by Galluba and Hofmann and have their original net bathing suits; the more mature lady, a bathing belle fully deserving of the much-abused adjective "rare," has her original wig as well.  Her expression seems to say, "Let's just see how cute you'll be in another 30 years, buttercup."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Wearing Baubles, Bangles, and Beads

Baubles, bangles,
Hear how they jing, jing-a-ling-a,
Baubles, bangles,
Bright, shiny beads.
Sparkles, spangles,
My heart will sing, sing-a-ling-a,
Wearing baubles, bangles and beads.
I'll glitter and gleam so,
Make somebody dream so,
That someday he may buy me,
A ring, ring-aling-a,
I've heard that's where it leads,
Wearing baubles and bangles and beads.

Kismet, 1953 musical by Robert Wright and George Forrest

This sultry sultana, glittering and gleaming in her molded baubles, bangles, and beads, would be the dream of any collector.  By the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann, this enticing odalisque is only 2.25 inches high.  She is faintly incised "9000" under her hips.


Despite her small size, she has the same excellent bisque and exquisite detail that Galluba lavished on on its larger ladies.


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.