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.

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. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

In the Hood

A bisque bathing belle in her own wicker beach chair would have been a most appealing seaside souvenir. And none could have been more alluring this lissome lass in her hooded beach chair with its silken canopy. By Galluba and Hofmann, the bathing beauty herself is 4.5 inches. She wears her original mohair wig tied up a silk scarf. The form fitting tank suit is of a black knit material with a tiny red embroidered anchor at each thigh. This is not the typical bathing attire found on Galluba's bathers and one wonders whether it was the individual creation of a talented seamstress or if some jobber ordered ladies au naturel from Galluba and had them dressed in this delightful and detailed swimwear. Although she is not tied into her beachside seat, she fits it perfectly. The beach chair does appear to be a commercial creation, as underneath is carries a penciled inventory number "502/B." This belle and beach chair certainly would have been a marvelous memento of some high-end seaside resort.   


Thursday, December 9, 2021

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Beach Babe

This youthful bathing belle is all ready to enjoy a day of sun and sand while lounging in her beach chair. In her right hand she holds a molded apple for seaside snacking. Of precolored bisque and jointed only at the shoulders, she is molded into a sitting position. The entire assembly appears to be all original, including the miniature chair, which fits her perfectly. Just 3.5 inches tall, this chubby charmer is incised on the back "771 Germany." She is from the German firm of Hertwig and Company. Not only did this firm extensively use precolored bisque for its all-bisque dolls, bathing beauties, and similar novelties, Hertwig was a whiz at using inexpensive materials to make an attractive presentations. There was a lot of competition between German doll companies, each trying to come up with cost-effective ways to make their items more eye-catching to the consumer. Hertwig often cleverly clad its dolls in a few scraps of cheap material to make them more appealing. The molded hair loop holding a miniature rayon ribbon bow is typical of Hertwig, as is the little mesh bathing suit. 

The chair, which actually folds, is another example of Hertwig's imaginative use of a pennyworth (or perhaps more correctly pfennigworth) of material to make its merchandise more marketable. A few slats of lightweight wood and a thin strip of colorful material create a cunning toy chair that certainly would appeal to little girls, yet be inexpensive enough so that most parents could afford to be indulgent. Typically, Hertwig produced boy and girl pairs, so perhaps she has a male counterpart in his own little lounge. I could envision a display of these diminutive dolls in tiny chairs at some beachside or boardwalk souvenir shop.

The chair is faintly stamped "Germany."


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Bad Doggy!

This little pooch may be begging for forgiveness, as he is a naughty novelty I call a "squirter." He is hollow and the opening on top of his head once held a rubber bulb. When filled with water and the bulb squeezed, the water sprayed out of the appropriate orifice. Most squirters are human subjects; animal figurines such piddling puppy are far less common. Of good sharp bisque, he is just 2.75 inches tall and although unmarked, is of German quality.