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 14, 2023

Gone Fishing!

On May 4, 2023,  my article about fishing figures, the little aquarium novelties that perched on the edge of a fishtanks, tiny fishing poles in hand, appeared on the on the online Museum of Aquarium and Pet History. The article includes pictures of these fish tank fancies from my collection, as well as images from  manufacturer and aquarium catalogs.

Friday, August 18, 2023

At Last. . . a Man!*

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I need a man, most specifically a beach beau by Galluba and Hofmann, but considering how rare the male of the bathing beauty species is, I am on the lookout for any handsome seaside studmuffin. This gorgeous guy has recently joined my collection, much to the delight of my bounteous bevy of bisque bathing belles. Of sharp precolored bisque with loop jointed arms, he is 6.5 inches tall. He has a slim, well-toned male body. . . 

including a nice tight tush.

There are holes in the soles of his feet for the supporting rods of a stand. The only mark is "Foreign" stamped in black on the sole of his left foot. In 1890, the United States Congress enacted the McKinley Tariff Act, which included the requirement that items imported to the United States be marked with their country of origin. The use of "Foreign" was initiated as a way to comply with the Act, as well as subsequent laws enacted by other countries. The "Foreign" mark not only indicated that an item was manufactured for export, it could be used to avoid marking the originating country's name on a product when there might be some tension between it and receiving country. For example, goods from Western Germany imported behind the Iron Curtain and some Japanese goods manufactured for import to the United Kingdom through the 1940s might carry the "Foreign" mark. 

In this case, I think this gent can be safely attributed to the German firm of Hertwig and Company, dating from the 1920s through the 30s. On January 7, 2001, Theriault's auctioned off samples from the Hertwig archives, which included this bisque bride and groom. The modeling and facial decoration on the groom is nearly identical to that of my guy.

A similar Hertwig bride and groom from my own collection also establish the strong family resemblance.

I suspect with the jointed arms and the holes in the feet for a supporting stand, my new guy was intended to be dressed (the jointed arms would have made costuming easier) and displayed, most likely as a groom. However, he certainly nicely sets off his new swim attire, created from a scrap from an antique wool bathing suit.

* The title is a line from a 1937 Warner Brothers cartoon entitled "I Only Have Eyes for You." In the cartoon, all the characters are anthropomorphized birds. The homely ice man is wooed by the lonely spinster, but he has a crush on the pretty Katie Canary, who longs to marry a radio crooner. Early in the cartoon, the iceman delivers ice to the spinster, who tries to woo him with all sorts of food. When he hides under her bed, she shouts, "At last. . . a man!" (around 2:09 minutes) and dives in after him (it's a sexist joke that Warner Brothers used over and over through the years).

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Pony Boy

Pony Boy, Pony Boy, won't you be my Tony Boy?
Don't say no. Here we go off across the plains.
Marry me, carry me right away with you.
Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, whoa! My Pony Boy.

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, whooooooa! My Pony Boy

Bobby Heath and Charley O'Donnell, 1909

This Pierrot and his paramour are engaged in a little high-spirited horseplay. Of excellent china, they are  actually a powder dish. The flirtatious flapper is a half doll and her feathery skirt, which originally would have been a swansdown puff, rests in a shallow dish for holding powder (I have created a substitute for the missing puff).  Pierrot is 5 inches long and incised “6150” on his right hip. This playful pair appear ready to ride off into the sunset, perhaps taking the "bridal" path.

His elongated amber eyes are surrounded by grey shadowing, a technique typical of the German firm of Fasold and Stauch, renown for its unusual and stylish powder dishes and boxes.

Underneath, the piece carries its original paper label from The Neiman Marcus Company. Founded in 1907 by Herbert Marcus Sr., his sister Carrie Marcus Neiman and her husband, Abraham Lincoln Neiman, the first store offered high-end clothing and luxury goods, providing nouveau riche Texas oil barons and their families with new ways to flaunt their wealth. The company is still considered synonymous with luxury goods.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Automaton Odalisque (Updated June 16, 2023)

This hoochie coochie cutie is a bit of a mystery. Just 4.5 inches tall, the sultry sultana, who represents a Middle Eastern belly dancer, has a metal body and a bisque head. The head is German and no later than the early 1900s. The remains of her outfit are silk, now fragile and deteriorating with age. 

Her lower abdomen is a domed metal piece, separate from the rest of the body, which is molded in one piece, and when the screw projecting from the back is moved in a circular motion, she does a belly roll that would make Little Egypt jealous!  

Further, moving the metal loops behind her neck causes her head to turn slightly side to side. I have checked and other than the typical mold mark on the back of the head, there are no other marks. 


She certainly was once part of some mechanism that made her perform. Perhaps some sort of coin-operated amusement or vending machine? An automated peepshow?

I think that may have found the original automaton, or something certainly very like it. This coin operated countertop automation was sold by Donley Auctions on May 16, 2020. The auction listing described the piece as "Wood case with glass front. Features three bare breasted dancing belly dancers. When coin is deposited the center one shimmies and shakes." The listing stated that the belly dancers measure about 6 inches tall each, but in the pictures they appear to be standing on circular bases, which would increase their height. Unfortunately, the listing saying nothing about the maker or the possible date of manufacture. The pictures sadly are not very clear and I could not enlarge them enough to get a better look at the little belly dancers, but the one in the center does appear to have a head that is of a different material from her body. If anyone has more information on this marvelous mechanized harem, I would most appreciate it if you would share it with me!

Friday, June 2, 2023

Someone Needs a Hug. . . .

Known aptly as "The Hugger," this erotic ivory miniature is one of the best known, and most controversial, works by Bruno Zach. Her enthusiastic embrace of a gigantic male member certainly suggests that for her, size really does matter.

Born in the Ukraine in 1891, as a young man Zach migrated to Austria to study sculpture at the Vienna Academy. A skilled artist with a wicked sense of humor, Zach specialized in depicting lithe young sexually liberated women, often in various states of undress, as they danced, posed, engaged in sports (of all kinds), and sometimes indulged in some rather kinky antics. His works appear in bronze, chryselephantine, and, far less commonly, ivory.  A mere two inches tall, this very naughty little nymph and the oversized object of her affection is beautifully carved, from the details of her face to the bows on her stocking garters. Although there are no marks, fine crosshatching, known as Schreger lines, is visible underneath, identifying this as elephant ivory. 

Zach apparently decided that his creation was not quite naughty enough, so he depicted the enamored miss with the back of her chemise open, baring her bottom. "The Hugger" has been widely reproduced in bronze, the more modern castings lacking the fine details and cold-painted patina of Zach's original works.  This may be one of Zach's most copied works, along with "The Riding Crop," a sculpture depicting a partially nude woman standing with her legs spread in a pose that is both inviting and imperious, as she holds the eponymous riding crop behind her back. 


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Gayly Sounds the Castanet,

Beating time to bounding feet, 
When, after daylight's golden set, 
Maids and youths by moonlight meet.

Maltese Air, Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

A collector would be happy to meet such a maiden as this by moonlight or daylight. Of excellent china, this 9-inch tall dancing damsel is by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann. She is beautifully modeled, from her slender arms curving out from her slim, yet shapely, body to the whirling swirl of her skirts. Although this figurine is only incised inside base with "5603," I have seen other examples with Gallup's crowned shield mark.  


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Age of Bronze, Finale

This bronze bathing beauty is the last, but not least, of the trio of cast coquettes from the previous postings. She is clad in a bathing outfit consisting short-sleeved nifty nautical blouse and swim shorts to her mid-thigh. Ballet-style bathing slippers adorn her slender ankles and feet. Resting by her knees is wide-brim sun hat nearly identical that lying by the side of the statuesque siren from the previous posting, so they are almost certainly from the same foundry. Her smooth skin has a golden patina, while the bow in her chignon and sun hat are pale red, the blouse silvery, and shorts and shoes have a soft greenish patina. Just 3.5 inches long, she is delicately modeled with fine details. Like the prior bronze beauties, she is unmarked, but mostly likely was made in Austria around the early 1900s.


Friday, March 31, 2023

Age of Bronze II

Another bronze bathing beauty, a bigger sister to the metal miss in the last posting. Reclining in a form-fitting tank swimsuit that clings to very ample curve, this beach belle is 4.5 inches long and 1.5 inches high. Her skin has a golden patina (no doubt from all that seaside sunbathing), with a very pale green patina to her swimsuit and touches of red on bow in her hair and the sun hat lying next to her. The sculpting and casting are excellent, with even tiny details like the waves in her luxurious hair and the texture of her knit bathing suit captured in bronze. Like the prior bronze beauty, she is unmarked, but mostly likely was made in Austria around the early 1900s.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Age of Bronze

This lissome miss is cast in bronze. Although only 2.5 inches tall and high, she is superbly sculpted, from the waves in her thick tresses to the tiny bows on the toes of her ballet-style bathing slippers. Her skin has a soft glowing golden patina, while the nautical blouse of her bathing suit is subtly silvered and her skirt and shoes have a greenish patina. A touch of red tints the bows in her hair and around her slender ankles. Although unmarked, this bronze beach belle is most likely Austrian. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Vienna became the center of many foundries and ateliers producing a wide array of finely crafted artistic bronzes to adorn the homes of those wishing to subtly display their taste and wealth. Although pretty and petite, she is surprisingly heavy for her small size and perhaps could have served as a paperweight for a gentleman's desk. 

Friday, March 3, 2023

Passing Muster(schutz)

Just 2.5 inches tall, this itty bitty bathing belle adjusts her bonnet to protect her fair complexion from the sun. Her bare feet and legs indicate that she is a little girl, as this was a freedom granted only to young children at the seaside.

Underneath she is stamped "Musterschutz" with a number. Musterschutz is not her maker, but indicates that her design was registered through the German patent system.  First offered in 1876, the party seeking to register a design had to file an application at the patent office and provide a sample (muster), either as an actual object or a picture. Items registered through this system might be marked Geschmacksmusterschutz, Geschmacksmuster, gesetzlich gesch├╝tzt,  or simply Musterschutz. The number is most likely the registration number.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

A Pretty Patrician Pincushion Doll

This very elegant and lovely lady is by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann, whose bevies of bathing belles populate this blog. But Galluba also created a series of aristocratic pincushion ladies, often endowed with towering coifs or large elaborate hats.  Of excellent china, she is 3.75 inches tall and incised "5434" on the back of her base.

This closeup reveals the typical Galluba perfect oval cameo face, long slender neck, and wide sloping shoulders.


Monday, January 30, 2023

Another Coquette in a Corset

This lissome lass wears a big blue flower in her blond tresses, accessorizing the blue corset cinching her hour-glass waist. She is part of a series of curvy cuties in corsets by the German firm of Schafer and Vater. In addition to the black stockings so typical of Schafer, the under-dressed damsels in this series have blue flowers adorning flowing blond tresses, camisoles that expose softly rounded shoulders or ample cleavage, white bloomers, and orange ankle boots. Of excellent sharp bisque, this lovely lady is 3 inches tall. 

Although she is unmarked, there is no mistaking what I call the standard Schafer "party girl" face, with incised upper lids, smiling parted bee stung lips, and a laughing expression that suggests that she has partaken of one too many flutes of champagne.


Friday, December 30, 2022

Powder Puff Pierrette

This roguish redhead is already for the masquerade ball in her form-fitting Pierrette costume that not only shows off her shapely legs, but manages to flash a bit of bosom under the wide ruffled collar. The collar forms a small shallow dish and her head is a separate piece, sewn to the original down powder puff, so that she appears to wear a marabou boa. Of excellent china and 6.25 inches tall, this coquettish clown is unmarked, but her auburn hair and large amber eyes with smoky grey shading are all characteristic of the German firm of Fasold and Stauch. The little dish would not hold much powder, so perhaps it was meant for blush or rouge?


Friday, December 9, 2022

Badekinder Beach Boy

This 5.5-inch tall bisque boy is all fitted out for the beach in his original striped knit bathing suit. His bathing cap is of a stiffened oilcloth material and the tiny bundle tied to his right wrist may represent a sponge used for saltwater bathing.  He is of a type of unjointed doll known as a badekinder (bathing children) in German, or, as dubbed by American collectors, frozen Charlottes (or frozen Charlies for boys), a name inspired by the folk ballad of "Fair Charlotte." There are no visible markings, and most of these early badekinder are unmarked, but he is of excellent German quality.


Monday, November 28, 2022

The Catalog is Complete!

I have finished uploading the original Hertwig and Company catalog. I may go back and scan some of the earlier pages that did not photograph particularly well, but the entire catalog is now on-line.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Staying Afloat

This little bathing boy knows just how to keep his head above water. Of fine rosy bisque, beautifully modeled and decorated, and clad only in blue and white striped bathing trunks, this 4-inch long figurine is surprisingly lightweight for its size.

That is because this little beach boy is hollow, so when he is gently placed in water, he does the back float. Called badekinder (bathing children), they were produced in Germany as children’s playthings and bath toys. However, the delicate thin bisque shell could not tolerate too many knocks against the side of a bowl or bathtub, so few of these sweet little swimmers seem to have survived.


Monday, November 14, 2022

More Catalog Pages

In a race against software updates and driver glitches, I have added more pages to the Hertwig catalog. I have also scanned and reposted a couple of earlier pages that did not photograph well. After I have the entire catalog posted, software willing, I hope to go back and scan and post clearer images of some of the earlier pages.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Back to Cataloging the Catalog

More updates to the Hertwig catalog page. I had lost the ability to coordinate my old scanner with my somewhat less old laptop. Apparently every time I update my laptop software, I now to have to delete my current scanner driver and reinstall a newer version, when one becomes available. Currently, everything appears to be working again and I am approaching the end of the catalog. Guess I better scan and post those last few pages before the next software update.

Thursday, November 3, 2022


This week features another unusual piece of Japanese erotica, an obidome featuring a red coral carving of a nude woman framed by flowers, studded with tiny pearls. An obidome is a decorative slide used to ornament the front of the obijime, the cord used by Japanese women to help keep the wide sash or obi in place. Other than ornamental, the obidome serves no purpose. Legend traces the obidome to the class of female entertainers known as geisha, who, to honor a special patron or customer, slid his metal sword guard, called a tsuba, on her obijime. The geisha were the trendsetters of the day and soon women of all classes were using an ornamental slide to decorate the obijime. Some obidome are set with precious and semiprecious stones, and carved coral is a popular and traditional material. However, the other coral obidome I have seen are more innocuous subjects, such as koi or flowers like peonies or chrysanthemums. Considering that the obidome is displayed prominently on the front of the obi like a belt buckle, the choice of a nubile nude is rather surprising.

A view of the back of the obidome, displaying the slides for the obijime. Although the metal is unmarked, it tarnishes like silver. The obidome is 1.75 inches long.


Friday, October 21, 2022

Stunning Sosaku-Ningyo

This beautifully modeled and dressed doll is known as a sosaku-ningyo (creative or art doll). Beginning in the 1920s, some Japanese doll artists began to experiment with classical Japanese doll making techniques.

These artists used traditional doll-making methods and materials, like gofun, the smooth white porcelain-like finish made from ground oyster shells, to created art dolls that strove to be more natural and life-like. This bewitching bijin (beautiful woman) is 4.5 inches tall and comes dressed in her original miniature silk kimono. Although her arms appear to be slightly jointed (perhaps to aid in dressing her), the rest of her body is a single piece. The silk mat, which matches some of the material in her kimono, also appears to be original, and the miniature lantern came with her as well. This doll may date from the 1950s. 

She is exquisite from any angle. The sculpting and painting are very detailed, from her complex hairstyle to her serene face to the carefully delineated fingernails. The miniature kimono is perfectly tailored to fit her.

Now I know some are you are thinking yes, she is alluring and lovely, but why is she on this blog?  I do not want to try to undress her, for fear of damaging her silk kimono or the fragile gofun finish, but she is also anatomically correct. . . 

. . .very anatomically correct. There is a long tradition of exotic art in Japan. The shunga (spring pictures) were vivid and unashamed artistic depictions of sexual activity and pleasure, often portrayed with playfulness and humor. The development of woodblock printing allowed these enticing images to be reproduced and shared. Although officially banned, these woodblock prints were very popular and sold on the sly. Many of the famous artists of the day contributed to the genre and their creations are prized by connoisseurs. This delicate doll demonstrates the traditional Japanese merging of erotica and art.