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 12, 2019

Stick It!

This intriguing reverse intaglio stickpin is another example of naughty novelty jewelry.  The image of a curvaceous diving belle on a rocky outcrop was carved into the flat back of a clear rock crystal cabochon and then painted with fine brushes, giving this marvelous miniature a glowing three-dimensional effect.  The carved cabochon is set in a 10 karat gold frame, sealed in the back to protect the delicate painting.  The stickpin itself is just 3.35 inches long.

Carving and painting these tiny treasures required great skill.  The technique originated in Belgium in the 1860s, but gained great popularity in Victorian England. The crystals can be found in a wide variety of jewelry for both men and women, including cuff links, watch fobs, brooches, and bracelets. The subjects were as varied as the settings, from sports such as hunting and fishing to natural themes such as flowers, butterflies, and birds. Horses and equestrian themes were popular, as were pampered pets such as dogs and cats.  However, rather risqué subjects such as this voluptuous bathing beauty are rare.  This type of carved crystal jewelry has been christened "Essex crystal" by antique dealers and collectors. The name appears to come from a mistaken attribution to William Essex (1784-1869). Essex was a skilled painter of miniature enamel work and was appointed as enamel-painter to Queen Victoria, but there is no evidence that Essex ever created such crystal gems.  These remarkable crystal creations were made through the early 1900s, but were replaced by mass-produced glass and plastic imitations, often in the form of inexpensive charms, which came into the market in the 1920s. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Among my Souvenirs. . . .

Romance comes to all in Summer, Spring or Fall 
It came the day that I met you 
And though you may seem a sweet and happy dream 
Yet all the time you knew it was untrue 
There's nothing left for me of days that used to be 
I live in memory among my souvenirs

Some letters tied with blue, a photograph or two 
I see a rose from you among my souvenirs

words by Edgar Leslie, music by Horatio Nicholls, 1927

This tiny brass souvenir album from France certainly contains "a photograph or two."  Just 1.5 inches tall and one inch high, it is beautifully embossed with an art nouveau pattern.  

Delightfully detailed, the edges are molded to appear as the edges of the interior pages.

It opens to reveal an octet of early photographs of very buxom beauties in various poses "plastique."

Although at first place these luscious ladies appear to be nude, they are in fact clad in form-fitting maillots.  

I have seen some of these same images reproduced on "naughty" French postcards from around 1900, such as this bejeweled belle, who appeared on a postcard signed "Reutlinger." Léopold-Émile Reutlinger took over the Parisian photography Studio Reutlinger from his father and became renown for his portraits of the most famous, and infamous, beauties of the Belle Epoque, from opera singers and actresses to performers from the stages of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergères.  He also produced artistic erotic pictures reproduced widely on postcards.

Another Reutlinger picture, this one a portrait of Caroline Otéro.  "La Belle," as she was known, was a Spanish actress and dancer who starred in Les Folies Bergère in the early 1900s.  A great beauty famed for her hypnotic dark eyes and curvaceous physique, she was one of the last great French courtesans.  Although blurred,  the Reutlinger signature and "Paris" are just visible in the lower right corner.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Beach Blanket Bunco?

Bundled up in a beach blanket and bonnet, this lovely laughing bathing belle seems a bit covered up for a day of sand and sun. . . .

However, her hinged towel opens to reveal her very brief bathing suit and bare bosom.  Of gilded spelter, this naughty novelty is 5.5 inches long and 3 inches high.

Underneath she is marked "JB 2039." “JB” stands for Jennings Brothers Manufacturing Company, founded in 1890 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The company designed and created metal decorative objects, such as bookends, clocks, candelabras, and boxes. It went out of business in the 1950s and the original molds and casts were sold. I have noticed over the past few decades that this same piece is showing up rather frequently cast in bronze and attributed to the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann (or Bergman), which produced fine quality bronze sculptures, patinated or cold-painted, in a wide variety of subjects, from innocent animals to exotic Arabs to erotic scenes. These bronze versions are variously stamped with a blurred Bergmann urn mark or "Namgreb" (some erotic authentic Bergmann pieces were signed "Nam Greb, which is "Bergman," minus an "n," spelled backwards. Typically it is written as a faux signature with two separate words in graceful cursive).  They are rather roughly cast, with flaws in the bronze, and the sharp details seen in the Jennings Brothers belle are lost or blurred, such as the coils in the hair, the folds in the blanket and ribbing on the bathing suit, the delicate sculpting of the face, and the exposed nipples. The cold painting is heavy, garish, and rather sloppy.  I know that a bronze version of this belle is currently being produced by at least European manufacturer, stamped with the Bergmann urn mark; although I have seen similar bronze bathers offered for well over $1,000 on, you can buy this one for a mere 169 euros (the gallery also offers a number of other recast Bergmann molds). 

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 reproductions from Bergmann's molds are being cast in Austria, and there are also poorer quality copies and outright fakes coming out of Europe and Asia.  Bergmann bronzes are highly collectible, especially the naughtier subjects, so unfortunately there is a lot of incentive to peddle recasts and fakes as originals.  Although it is possible Bergmann copied the Jennings Brothers or the Jennings Brothers introduced a less expensive version of a Bergmann bronze, my suspicion, taking into account the large number and lesser quality of the bronze versions, is that they are modern pieces with dubious signatures, not authentic antiques.

 A close up of the Jennings Brothers bather shows the nice sharp details, missing on the bronze versions.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

How Charming!

This antique charm features a rather prim-looking woman.  Out of gold toned metal it is just 1.5 inches high.  She appears to be rather upset and stressed, possibly because she is looking for her missing pussycat.  Where could Pussy be?  Here, Pussy, Pussy. . . .

There is that naughty Pussy!  

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Squeeze Me, Tease Me. . . .

She goes, squeeze me, come on and squeeze me
Come on and tease me like you do
I'm so in love with you
Squeeze Box, The Who  (1975)

This unusual powder dish features a red-haired flapper being courted by a concertina playing Pierrot.  Her skirt forms a round dish that would have held face powder and the puff would have no doubt been swansdown topped with a pair of shapely legs as a handle (in this case, the "puff" is a replica made of marabou and a wood dowel).  Of excellent china, these musical paramours are 6 inches wide and 4 inches tall.

Although unmarked, this piece can be attributed to the German firm of Fasold and Stauch, as both the Pierrot and his main squeeze have the company's signature elongated amber eyes surrounded by smoky gray eyeshadow.   The lovely lady's rather sultry expression and swooning pose suggests that she is getting tired of the musical overture and is ready to move on to the main act. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Like the Cherries Ripe

Her lips are like the cherries ripe
That sunny walls from Boreas screen.
They tempt the taste and charm the sight.
                                         --The Lass of Cessnock Banks, Robert Burns

Well, this leafy lass is certainly proudly displaying something ripe, rosy, and round, but they are not her lips! This prurient pin dish is from the German firm of Schafer and Vater.  Of excellent sharp bisque, this naughty novelty is beautifully sculpted, from the luscious lady's tousled blond tresses to the realistically modeled leaves.  Unmarked, this cheery miss and her extra-large cherries is 6.5 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


This lovely lady cuddling her kitty while sitting on a settee is actually a smoking set.  Of excellent bisque, this unusual piece is 6.5 inches high, 5.5 inches long, and is unmarked. 

There are three holders.  The one molded to the end of the settee is a match striker; it would have held wooden safety matches, which could be struck on its horizontally ribbed surface.  The oval basket by the lass's shapely legs is for burnt matches and the tall container in the back, molded to look like a brick wall, would have proffered cigarettes or cigars.  No doubt this piece was made to appeal to men, who would have been only proper consumers of tobacco products when it was made, which would explain the lady's charming state of dishabille.  Perhaps she once adorned a tobacconist's counter, a table in a men's club, or some other early version of the man cave. 

These two figurines featuring the same theme of a lady lounging with a feline friend appeared earlier on this blog.  Although much smaller than the smoking set (the larger of these two figurines, the pretty miss in pink, is only 3.75 inches tall), they certainly seem to all be by the same maker.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Neither Bad Nor Bold

I have previously posted about Grace Drayton's popular parody of the painting "September Morn" by French artist Paul Chabas. Drayton, best known for her pleasingly plump Campbell Soup Kids, portrayed a pudgy and wide-eyed little Miss Morn, sometimes accompanied by the caption, "Oh! please don't think I'm bad or bold, Cause where it's deep, it's awful cold!" This 6.5 inch tall version of Drayton's bare baby bathing belle is made from excellent bisque and is superbly decorated.

A close up of the face shows the wonderful details of the features, including tiny finely painted eyelashes and highlighted eyes.

On the back of the base is a blurred facsimile of Drayton's signature, "G.G. Drayton."  Although otherwise unmarked, it resembles similar pieces by the German company Schafer and Vater.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Go Fish!

Anne Harriet Fish (1890-1964), although born in Britain became a renown artist, illustrator, and cartoonist on both sides of the "pond." Her work appeared in Condé Nast's Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Tatler. Fish also created designs for Fulper Pottery of Flemington, New Jersey, and Hubley Manufacturing Company, which made cast iron toys and novelties, such as doorstops.  This lamp base is an Anne Fish design for Fulper.  It features two very stylized flapper bathing belles sitting back to back.  These colorful cuties are 6.25 inches high.

The egg-shaped heads, heart-shaped lips, and large half-circle eyes with long lower lashes are typical of Fish's frolicsome females.

Her signature appears by the hole that would have held the lamp stem.  She signed her drawings and illustrations with only her last name.

The oval ink mark dates this piece between 1917 to 1934.

Fish's illustrations for Vanity Fair, first published in 1913, captured the essence of the new woman, youthful, slender, and always ready for a little flirtation or fun. Over a roughly 15-year period, Fish created some 30 covers for the magazine, as well as many inside illustrations.  Two covers in particular portray similar dual bathing belles. This one dates from February 1916.

Fish returned to the theme with this June 1923 cover. Condé Nast has an online store where you can view a collection of Fish covers, as well as order a print of your favorite.

This pair of bathers perching on a perfume bottle appeared earlier on this blog.  The bottle is stamped underneath “Bavaria” and is incised “X.F. 269,” “Dep,” and with the William Goebel crown mark.  It is clear that this Goebel piece was inspired by the work of this popular illustrator of the period.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Frog Prince

Open the door, my princess dear, 
Open the door to thy true love here! 
And mind the words that thou and I said 
By the fountain cool, in the greenwood shade.

In the fairy tale "The Frog Prince," a princess playing by a well accidentally drops her golden ball into it.  A frog offers to fetch it for her if she promises to be his playmate and bring him to live with her in her castle.  The princess agrees, but when the frog returns her ball, she runs away, leaving, so she thinks, the frog behind,  However, soon the frog appears at the castle, demanding entrance.  When the king hears the frog's story, he tells his daughter she must keep her promise and she reluctantly allows the frog to sit by her at the table and eat out of her plate.  Later the frog demands that the princess carry him to her bedroom, place him on her bed, and let him sleep on her pillow.  In some versions, after the frog sleeps there for three nights, he turns into a handsome prince; in others, he changes after the princess either kisses him or, in a bizarre and violent twist, slams him against a wall.  

If this figurine of a kneeling nude confronting a rather forward frog was inspired by the fairy tale, it looks as if the ambitious amphibian has demanded a little more than merely sleeping on the lovely lady's pillow! Of excellent china, this figurine is this 5.5 inches tall and was created by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann. 

From the woman's slightly smiling expression, she seems willing to accede to the frog's demands on the chance there might just be an enchanted prince involved.

Underneath the base the figurine is incised "21" and stamped in green with Galluba and Hofmann crowned shield mark.

Also incised on left rear edge of the base is what appears to be "L Lonk (or maybe "Lank?") Nov 25." It is not unusual to find a sculptor's signature on fine bisque and china figurines of the early 1900s.  Renown German sculptor Otto Poertzel (1876-1963) initially trained and worked as a porcelain modeler at A. W. Fr. Kister., where his father was already a designer, and some figurines from this factory are incised with his signature.  However, I have not been able to trace the artist of this female and her froggy friend. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Five Barrison Sisters, Minus One

Naughty, bawdy, blonde, and voluptuous, the Five Barrison Sisters tantalized and shocked audiences in the 1890s with a vaudeville act specializing in naughty antics and double entendres, often while dressed in girlish frilly dresses and beflowered bonnets.  This coquettish quartet certainly was inspired by the Barrisons during their brief heyday.  Note the pretty pair in the center of the picture both hold a cigarette or small cigar.  

This German cabinet card from 1895 shows the sisters in identical costumes.  All of the Barrisons are posed puffing on or holding a cigarette, a scandalous and suggestive accessory for a woman of that era.  

The same picture as interpreted by artist Alfred Choubrac in publicity poster from the famed Parisian Folies Bergère.

The belle in blue resting on her belly has appeared earlier on this blog. All four of the figurines are of good china and decorated in deep blue, highlighted with dashes of gilt.  I wonder if these provocative poses were from the unknown manufacturer's imagination or taken from publicity pictures of the Barrison bevy.  I also wonder if there is a fifth figurine representing the final sister.  Flaunting her cigar or cigarette, this insouciant sister is 5 inches long.  Like her other siblings, she is unmarked.

In a pose that could be interpreted as either artless or audacious, this seated sister is 3.5 inches high.

Arms and legs crossed, this Barrison in blue is also 3.5 inches high.

This picture of four femmes flaunting lorgnettes has been posted previously on this blog.  Although I identified the four as part of the Barrison brood, I had wondered where the fifth sister had wandered off to.  Now I think the mystery has been solved. . . .

This publicity still features all five of the sisters posing with lorgnettes, their costumes identical to the ones worn by their bisque doppelgängers.  While clearly copying this photograph, the unknown manufacturer simplified the figurine and made it more compact by not only eliminating the sister on the far left, but also switching the two center sisters in the remaining quartet and moving them all closer together.