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 8, 2022

What a Doll!

In addition to bathing beauty figurines, I also collect antique dolls, and this bright-eyed beach babe is a terrific tiny "two-fer." Her pink ribbed bathing suit is accessoried with matching bathing cap tied in a  big jaunty bow. Of excellent bisque and beautifully decorated, this 3.5 inch doll is jointed at the shoulders. She is incised on back between her shoulders “62-6Germany” with faint matching numbers inside each arm. 



Friday, August 26, 2022

Mit Bastkleidern

Recently I posted these pages from an original Hertwig and Company catalog. The pages are from the section of the catalog dealing with earthenware (feinsteingut) and the figures portrayed, women in a variety of provocative poses and several chubby children, are referred to as "Neger" (Negro). All have exaggerated ethnic features and molded tufts of curly hair. Most wear short "grass" skirts of raffia ("bastkleidern"), necklaces made out of several strands of thin wire, and molded large disk earrings. To our modern sensitivities these figures are shocking stereotypes, but they are a reflection of the attitudes of their era.

This all-original example from my collection is inventory number 4880 on the page, one of a pair. She is out of a light-weight material with painted dark skin and features and is 5 inches long.

These figures were clearly derived from molds used in Hertwig's series of precolored bisque bathing beauties.

Another all-original example, she is also one of a set, shown as inventory number 7116.

Again showing the family resemblance between these earthenware Black figures and Hertwig's pink bisque bathing beauties.

This figure corresponds to inventory number 7252 on the catalog page and was offered singly.

This standing example appears to be inventory number 7117 in the catalog.


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

I'm Back

 . . . with more updates to the Hertwig catalog.

I have been doing some traveling, as well as being involved in some other projects, but I hope to get back to regular blogging starting this week.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Getting Bronzed

This languorous lass appears to be working on her tan, but she is already a beautiful golden bronze. Just 5 inches long, this sensual sculpture is exceptionally heavy for her size, making her a pulchritudinous paperweight for some gentleman's desk. She had a gilt patina, except for her bathing cap, which has a reddish tint. The sculpting is superb, from her supple curves to her bathing suit with its natty nautical collar to the ribbons on her ballet-style bathing slippers. 

Under her left hip is the "B" within an urn mark of the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann and "Austria."

Thursday, July 14, 2022

What are the Wild Waves Saying?

As they roll upon the shore
What are the wild waves saying?
As they roll in more and more
They seem to say "I adore you
And I want your love to share"

Bonnie Beach and Johnny Noble, 1937

Kneeling on a round powder box shaped like an oversize hassock, this bathing belle lifts a sizable snail shell to her ear, no doubt to hear the roar of the ocean's waves. Of excellent china, this beautiful box is six inches tall and wide. 

 This svelte collector of sea shells is superbly modeled. 

Incised underneath is the Sitzendorf Porcelain Factory crown and crosshatched "S" mark. The company appears to have created a series of seaside-inspired powder boxes, as this bathing beauty's crabby sister appeared earlier on this blog.


Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hamming it Up

This shapely sow spreads her swirling skirt, forming a small shallow dish for holding pins or trinkets. Her sly smile suggests that she has a secret.

Turn her over and she reveals two plump pink hams on the hoof. Of colorful glazed china, Ms. Piggie is three inches high and 4.5 inches wide.  The piece is incised "3812" on left edge of the skirt and marked "Germany" in black cursive on the back edge.  It is a rare raunchy example of the once popular pink pig fairings. Fairings were small inexpensive porcelain pieces, often featuring comical or satirical themes, typically given as prizes at fairs or sold as souvenirs from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s. Fairings were made in Germany by a number of companies. In Germany, the pig is a sign of good luck and prosperity. A person who is lucky will say "Ich habe schwein gehabt" (I have had pig). Postcards and other empherma of the period featured glücksschweinchen (good luck pigs), often carrying a four leaf clover or leaping through a horseshoe. There is an entire genre of bisque and china fairings featuring pink pigs engaged in a wide variety of human activities. 

This glamorous gilt has the caption "Newport, RI" in faded gold cursive letters adorning the center of her skirt. Newport since the 1840s has been a resort for the wealthy and in 1875 was described as "the fashionable queen of all American watering resorts, for summer pleasure." It was not only the privileged who flocked to Newport to enjoy its beaches and mild summers, as it also became a destination for the middle and working class. This saucy sow was no doubt purchased as a souvenir of a summer excursion to the popular resort town.


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Naughty and Nice

At first glance these pretty pin dishes seem nearly identical. Each is of excellent sharp bisque and portrays a beautiful bathing belle in a green bathing suit and matching bonnet rising from the waves. The lovely ladies are superbly sculpted, from their ruffled bonnets to their slim arms with graceful hands to the gently lapping whitecaps. However, turn them over and you discover that they are not quite identical twins. . . 

On one, the waters have parted to expose the bather's bare bottom, while on the other the ocean discretely keeps its secrets. Both dishes are about 4.75 inches wide; the modest maiden is incised "6352" underneath while the more daring damsel carries only an incised "5." 

A close up of the risqué sister. By tweaking an existing mold a manufacturer could appeal to different clientele without having to create an entirely new model. 


Friday, May 27, 2022

This September Morn is a Real Doll

As a collector, there is always that one piece you feel you really must have to fill a gap in your collection. Those who have followed this blog know that I have long lamented my lack of an elusive Galluba and Hofmann male bathing beauty (beach beau?). But there was one other bisque bathing beauty I longed to acquire, the rare all-bisque doll version of Grace Drayton's plump parody of Paul Chabas' famous (or in some histories, infamous) painting entitled "September Morn." While I still need a man, this little Miss Morn has joined her sisters in my display cases. Of good quality bisque, this 4-inch tall wide-eyed cutie is probably the smallest version of this scarce doll. The doll came in various sizes, the tallest I have seen being 7.5 inches.

She has her original, albeit faded, chest label reading "September Morning Germany."

A round label on the back declares that the design has been patented. There are no marks on the doll herself. On December 30, 1913, Drayton was granted a patent for a statuette; although the name "September Morn" does not appear, the patent drawing is clearly Drayton's comedic cartoon of Chabas' bare bather. The doll no doubt dates from this same period.


Thursday, May 26, 2022

More Pages Posted

 Slowly but surely the work on the Hertwig catalog continues with more pages posted.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Sunday, April 24, 2022

More Hertwig Catalog Updates

acquire a knowledge of
get the hang of
get off by heart
get wind of the fact

For those of you wondering what happened to the posting of the Hertwig and Company catalog, I was not happy with the way the photographs of the catalog were turning out, so I decided to try scanning some pages. However, I discovered that, thanks to the latest updates, my computer software no longer supported my scanner. Not wanting to toss a perfectly good scanner into the landfill, I sought out a work-around and after much frustration and Googling, I was finally able to find and download suitable software. Oh, the wonders of modern technology! Anyway, four new pages have been added. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

French Flirt

At first glance this big-eyed bathing belle appears to be another of the wide variety of chalkware or composition "beach dolls" which became so popular beginning in the late 1910s, such as the Splash Me dolls of Genevieve Pfeffer or the carnival cuties offered by S.K. Novelty Company. However, this googly-eyed coquette is made of excellent china. She wears her original, if somewhat disheveled, black wig (a windy day at the seaside no doubt) and is a sizable 8 inches tall. Beautifully hand painted, this little lass was not intended to be an inexpensive prize at some carnival concession. 

Underneath she carries the mark of Union Céramique, a porcelain factory founded in Limoges, France in 1908. The company closed in 1938.


Friday, March 18, 2022

Reunited. . .

. . . and it feels so good
Reunited 'cause we understood
There's one perfect fit
And, sugar, this one is it
We both are so excited 'cause we're reunited, hey, hey

"Reunited," Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren, 1978

The spill vase of the lissome lass preparing to dive next to a giant water lily has been in my collection for many years. However, at a recent serendipitous nearby estate sale, I came across her matching mate, a man in a similar striped bathing suit leaning against an identical oversized lily. From his appreciative smile as he admiringly gazes upon the diving damsel, I think he is happy they are finally back together. These bisque vases are each about 4.75 inches tall and are unmarked, although they are certainly of German origin.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Baby Beach Beau

A little late for Black History Month, but this sensitive and superbly sculpted bisque figurine portrays an African-American toddler in striped swimming trunks giving himself a saltwater sponge bath by the seaside. Created the German company of Gebruder Heubach and of excellent shape bisque, this bouncing bathing boy is 5 inches tall.

Although the incised marks are difficult to see against the textured background of his trunks, he is marked "COPYRIGHTED" in a circle on the back and carries the Heubach sunburst mark on his right hip.

His warm brown complexion is delicately shaded and there are is a subtle rosy blush on his cheeks. His features are ethnic, but are not exaggerated for comic effect, as was often typical of figurines of this era. Instead, this is a sweet realistic portrait of a young boy, so typical of the charming children by Heubach. 


Friday, February 18, 2022

The Big Reveal

This bronze belle covered in a cloak is another mechanical bronze work by Carl Kauba

Of golden bronze, this lovely lady holds out her cloak, patinated dark brown. Her concealing covering is secured by a large bow in the front.

Well, not exactly secured, because the bow is actually a clasp and when it is released, her arms gracefully swing open to reveal her beautifully sculpted nude body.

Kauba's signature appears on the back of the base.

I have always wondered if Kauba cloaked coquette might have been inspired by the American interpretative dancer Loie Fuller, pictured here in a 1893 poster designed by Jules Cheret for the Folies Begere. Born in 1862 as Marie Louise Fuller, she began on stage as a child actress, growing up to become an actress and a dancer. She experimented with flowing silk costumes and multicolored lighting, introducing her "Serpentine Dance" in 1891. Clad in a long dress consisting of multiple yards of thin silk, she held the ends of the skirt in her hands, waving and twisting it as she danced, creating spiraling forms as she exposed and concealed her body, while the changing colored lights suggested everything from flickering flames to ripples of water. In 1892, Fuller joined the numerous American dancers who traveled to Europe for artistic recognition. She settled in France and regularly performed at the Folies. Fuller and her swirling veils became a popular image of the art nouveau movement. She established a dance troupe and continued to experiment with costume and lighting, receiving patents for many of her innovations.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Put Through the Hoops


The fashionable crinoline or hoop skirts of the mid-1850s to the late 1860s, as appeared earlier on this blog, were a target of sometimes tawdry humor. This crinoline-clad miss seems every inch the most prim and proper lady. Perhaps that is a prayerbook tucked under her arm?

Peek underneath and it appears that this maiden's prayer has been answered, as there is a dashing suitor concealed under her crinoline. The crinoline cage a created bell-shaped skirt, sometimes as wide as six feet. Wags wondered what women did with the ample empty space secreted under all that fabric. One salacious suggestion was that a young lady might use her supersized skirt to hide her lover from a suspicious chaperone or meddling mama. Of fine china and delicately painted, this early figurine of a lady and her undercover lover is 5.5 inches tall and unmarked.


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Dancing Queen

You are the dancing queen
Young and sweet
Only seventeen
Dancing queen
Feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah

Dancing Queen, 1976, ABBA

According to the caption on her base, she is the "Dancing Girl," rather than queen, but she certainly appears to be having the time of her life. Seven inches tall, this is a half or pincushion doll on her original base. The two pieces were clearly meant to go together (the half doll is incised on her base "19174" and under the base is the matching number "19175"). I don't know whether the extravagant dress is original, but it is old and beautifully made of sequined net trimmed in tiny seed beads; the flared skirt has fine wire around the hem to give it shape. Underneath she has a muslin half slip with lace trim similar to the factory made garments found on antique dolls. 

Clearly meant to be a maiden from the Middle East, she has a black mohair wig, an olive complexion, and is well-accessorized with a variety of molded bangles and baubles. Her face is beautifully painted.

Joining the two pieces is some sort of fibrous substance, perhaps wood, but both pieces have matching sew holes so I wonder whether there might have originally been a fabric pincushion between them.